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Advocates: Mayor’s plan to curb homelessness not enough

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DENVER -- Mayor Michael Hancock devoted much of his State of the City address Monday to highlighting new efforts to curb homelessness in Denver.

Among them, an ambitious 10-year, $150 million proposal to create 6,000 new affordable housing units in the city.

“It’s a tough call, but one I think is a modest proposal and appropriate proposal particularly as we face we face one of the most challenging issues of our community,” Hancock said.

The city is also planning to launch a new day work program aimed at hiring a dozen homeless people each week to help them obtain job skills and ultimately land stable employment within the community.

That’s all in addition to the creation of a new city “Office of HOPE” that will oversee and coordinate all affordable housing initiatives in Denver.

Despite the bold initiatives, however, the mayor’s speech was met by protesters who claim his initiatives do very little to solve the problem.

“We’re done with offices. We’re done with programs. We’re done with policies and procedures. We need homes and we need rights to be treated with human dignity," said Terese Howard with Denver Homeless Out Loud.

More than 100 homeless and advocates for the homeless held a "People’s State of the City Address” after the mayor’s speech, a satirical response to the mayor’s address.

“Our housing is unaffordable for everybody. Everybody knows that. And the mayor thinks putting in this plan to get 6,000 affordable housing units is somehow going to solve the problem. That’s not going to solve the problem. We need to take drastic steps and we need to take it now,” Howard said.

Jerry Burton was one of many homeless individuals who attended the rally.

He said he and others are skeptical of the mayor’s promises. He claims many are also outraged and upset with the mayor because of the city’s crackdown on urban camping.

Denver police numbers show enforcement of the ban in March and April was up dramatically from the previous four years.

“They’re forcing people to take down their tents, to wake up in the middle of the night, and move on,” he said.

Burton said that’s a message from the city that it doesn’t truly want to solve Denver’s homeless problem. It just wants to hide it.

“They can’t make me leave. I’m going to stay the same place very night until something gets done,” Burton said.