DENVER (KDVR) — Advocates for Denver’s homeless population swarmed the office of Mayor Michael Hancock on Wednesday. They are standing against the city’s plan to clean up a growing homeless encampment outside of Morey Middle School in Capitol Hill.
Hancock said the encampments have spiraled into a public health threat, but homeless supporters said the sweeps are inhumane and do nothing to solve the bigger issue.
Neighbors who live across the street from Morey Middle School said they are worried about the drug use and trash piling up on the sidewalks.
“There’s nowhere for them to go to the bathroom, nowhere to put the trash,” one neighbor who did not want to be identified said.
Hancock pledged to clean up Denver’s sprawling homeless camps that have been deemed a health threat.
“There’s a great concern when you’re allowing feces and needles and unsanitary conditions to exist, which we have found in some of these encampments. We have to abate them,” Hancock said.
Abate often means a “homeless sweep” in which city workers notify homeless to collect their belongings and move, while crews power-wash the sidewalks. But advocates for the homeless are pushing back, calling the sweeps government overreach.
“They’re coming in and destroying people’s lives. There’s no commitment to stop the sweeps,” one advocate shouted outside Hancock’s office.
The city said homeless shelters are not at capacity.
Britta Fisher, Denver’s chief housing officer, said a 1,000-unit financed housing plan is in place to provide more housing options for the homeless.
At one point, the mayor’s community outreach director, Danny Glover, stepped out to try to reason with the crowd.
“Don’t just sit around and make noise – get involved,” Glover shouted.
But his comments were not well received from the group. Homeless supporters plan to block city workers if and when they show up to clean out the Morey Middle School encampment.
“We’re not going to be quiet until he says, ‘No more sweeps,'” one advocate said.