DENVER (KDVR) — Friday morning, crews and first responders arrived at 22nd and Stout streets downtown for a sweep of a homeless encampment.
This sweep was the first of new Denver Mayor Mike Johnston’s term. He said the encampment was rat-infested, and health and safety necessitated the move. Johnston, alongside the district’s first-year Council Member Darrell Watson, visited the encampment Thursday, a day before this sweep, to ensure people knew this would be happening and to provide resources.
The issue for some was that the city did not have a permanent place or shelter for these people to go to.
“This is a temporary Band-Aid on a much bigger solution,” said Justin Paris, one person advocating on the scene.
Sweeping the encampment without ensuring housing for the people involved is something Johnston said he wouldn’t do.
“I think that’s very shameful, because he said he would not sweep people unless he had somewhere else to put them besides a shelter,” Paris said.
A state official agreed with these concerns.
“Unfortunately, people are just going to have to go to another block, and we’re trying to get them out of that reality and move them to a new space,” said Cole Chandler, homeless resolution senior advisor with the Colorado Department of Human Services.
Homelessness solutions sought
Residents passing by were happy to see the sweep happening, while they were also hoping for permanent solutions for the residents of the encampment.
“I walk down this area quite a bit and it’s kind of scary sometimes. I can’t get through sometimes, and I see all of these dead rats and stuff,” said Van Michaels, a resident of the neighborhood. “I just hope to do something good with moving them somewhere. I’m concerned about the mental health of these people.”
There were resources on scene, as well as mental health and wellness checks to try and get people on a path to housing. The city’s hope is that with the temporary housing hotels going up by next month, that will create space for these people.
“Unfortunately, we don’t have those units available yet, and so this is the reality when people don’t have a great place to go, and we recognize that that is a policy that doesn’t work to resolve homelessness,” Chandler said.