Workers, residents concerned over homeless camping in RiNo

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DENVER -- Residents and workers in the River North district of Denver came forward with concerns about a transient camping spot near Brighton Boulevard.

Neighbors said, at one point, up to 100 people were living along the South Platte River and on a street near Denargo and 29th streets.

It was one of the areas targeted in police transient control operations overnight Wednesday. The makeshift camp of tents, cars, tarps and sleeping bags was cleared out by police early Wednesday morning.

Those who work in a nearby building said they were relieved to see the camp cleared out, saying some of the campers were hostile.

It was a stark contrast, said one worker who did not want to be identified. Along Brighton Boulevard, the revitalization is underway of the RiNo district.

“It's beautiful,” he said. “They have the restaurants, these great businesses in here.”

But just a few hundred yards down 29th Street, he said transients and travelers set up camp outside the property lines of the Crossroads Salvation Army Shelter and along the South Platte River.

“They've got tents down there, and I could probably estimate about 100 people living down there,” he said.

The shelter staff said Wednesday that it was not an overcrowding issue. It had space available on Tuesday night. While 393 people stayed inside the shelter, it can house up to 450.

It’s unclear how long the camp was there, but neighbors said it continued to grow, increasing their concerns regarding safety, sanitation and littering.

“I don't want to jeopardize myself, my company,” said the man, who did not want to be identified. “I've had some confrontations with them.”

He also expressed concern for his female colleagues.

“As a female, I would feel a little bit unsafe, especially alone walking out of the office at a late hour, you know, nighttime with 15, 20 guys out there drinking, hooting and hollering,” he said. “You’ve got to walk past them to get to your vehicle.”

Robert Jessup, who is homeless, said he has seen the problems outside the shelter.

“Some of it's because of drunkenness, some honestly is due to drugs,” he said.

That’s why he said he stays inside each night.

“I cleaned my life up and I started stacking everything together,” Jessup said. “I've got a lottery number for Section 8. I'm on every list that there could be known to mankind for housing.”

That’s where Jessup said the homeless problem in Denver festers.

“Shelters ain’t the problem,” he said. “Housing is our problem. I live on $700 a month. Only way I can get a house is if it's subsidized.”

A representative for the Salvation Army shelter said in the winter, there is a long line to get a spot inside to avoid the frigid temperatures. But in the summer, he said campers often choose to stay outside.

When campers set up in public parks, police are forced to enforce the city’s park curfew ordinance. The parks are closed from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. Early Wednesday morning, police conducted transient control operations, citing 36 people. Nine were arrested on felony warrants.

Jessup said the camp outside the shelter was cleared out Wednesday morning. But area workers and residents said the travelers always return, with nowhere else to go.

“They'll probably be back, you know, an hour after you leave or tomorrow or the next day,” the unidentified man said.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock recently proposed spending $150 million over the next 10 years on affordable housing projects.

 

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