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DENVER (KDVR) — Many metro-area drivers have noticed trash and tents on the side of the interstate, off-ramps and roadways.

One example is the off-ramp from northbound Interstate 25 to Lincoln Street in Denver. It is a main thoroughfare into the downtown area, and there are piles of trash and some tents lining the road right next to the “no trespassing” sign.

There is a similar scene a block over at the Broadway underpass.

Nancy Kuhn, with the Denver Department of Transportation and Infrastructure, said Denver Police assisted CDOT with a cleanup there on Jan. 26. Weather permitting, crews will be back in the area later this week or next week to clean again.

“The trash is incredible. The amount that comes every day that just keeps piling up, some of it is for encampments, which I understand, it’s cold here at night, but a lot of it is just waste and refuse and, pretty gross,” said Josiah Mahan, who lives a few houses away.

Mental health, neighborhood issues collide

He believes this shows a bigger problem involving housing, mental health and drug use.

“It’s sad more than anything, it’s really sad. You see these guys and the drug use under these areas when I drive my daughter to school every day. It’s a mental health issue as well as a neighborhood issue,” Mahan said.

The Department of Housing Stability, or HOST, had outreach workers in the area Tuesday, but residents wonder how this situation can be improved long term.

Residents can report issues through the CDOT website or Denver’s website. CDOT has a process it uses that involves a lot of coordination with local governments and law enforcement agencies. 

On average, CDOT removes about two to three encampments per week involving several tons of trash and debris, but only after law enforcement is sure that all the people are safely moved somewhere else.

For the fiscal year 2022, CDOT spent more than $3 million on cleanup.