DENVER — Police descend on a homeless camp covering entire sidewalks near downtown Denver on Tuesday afternoon.
Hundreds of homeless people filled the sidewalks and now they’ve been ordered to move out. The biggest question is where do they go now?
The city posted notices for everyone to remove their belongings days ago in the areas around the Rescue Mission and Samaritan House homeless shelters near Lawrence Street and Broadway.
After six months of outreach and growing debris, the city used its police force and employees from the Public Works department to enforce the so-called encumbrance code.
“Syringes … debris … and so you start to get concerned about what can happen if you don’t address the problem,” said city Denver spokeswoman Julie Smith. “That was the reason for the cleanups. So we really want to make sure that this neighborhood is safe and healthy for everyone.”
Tempers flared as some of the homeless and supporters lashed out. “Mayor Hancock, you ought to be ashamed of yourself. This is no way to treat human beings,” said Jerry Burton, a homeless veteran.
Workers tossed debris into waiting trash trucks. Personal items were bagged and removed. Those went to a nearby warehouse where the owners have 30 days to claim them.
“Where are people to go and moving people out of site and out of mind is not a long term solution and we need to reach into our humanity,” Rev. Amanda Henderson of Interfaith Alliance of Colorado said.
Some activists said overdevelopment has simply pushed more people the street with no affordable places to live. “The city has really put its head in the sand and it is really negligible in not really providing thoughtful solutions to this,” Buck Foundation Director P.J. Damico said.
The cleanup ended peacefully. Nobody was arrested.
Yosef Bennett donates to help the homeless. “Now after their stuff’s taken then what? Then what do they do? You know it hurts me because I was in a similar position,” he said.
“The ACLU of Colorado is deeply concerned by the City of Denver’s approach to the visible presence of people who are homeless downtown, including today’s sweep and seizure of personal possessions in the areas directly adjacent to the Rescue Mission, St. Francis Center, and Samaritan House. People who are homeless deserve the right to rest, the right to move freely in public spaces, and the fundamental right to be secure in their personal belongings, especially when those belongings are all that they have in the world,” a statement released late Tuesday afternoon said.