DENVER (KDVR) – Those suffering from homelessness say they have received notice of new cleanup operations. Critics accuse the city of trying to hide the homeless ahead of the MLB All-Star Game. The city insists that is not accurate.
Homeless sweeps are nothing new in Denver. However, advocates for unhoused people say there is a new motivation and a targeted area that they do not believe is a coincidence.
Cate Sinclair, who has lived at Park Avenue West and Champa Street for a month now, said this week is moving week.
“We got our notice [to move] almost a week ago,” Sinclair said.
As the city prepares to clear her camp away, officials are ready to recommend shelters. But not everyone feels safe in shelters — leading to sidewalk camps being moved from one block to the next.
“We circle back in the same area,” Sinclair said.
Benjamin Dunning, an organizer with Denver Homeless Out Loud, said his clients are used to the police pushing them throughout the city.
“The city wants to believe that they can make visible poverty invisible,” Dunning said.
Ahead of the All-Star Game events, those on the streets say they have noticed more enforcement.
“They’re up to three sweeps a week,” Dunning explained. “They fence off large city blocks.”
Denver Department of Transportation and Infrastructure director Nancy Kuhn said there’s no new strategy in place related to the MLB All-Star Game.
“DOTI … will post notice of a cleanup when we see deteriorating conditions and increasing amounts of trash and other items encumbering and blocking access to the public right of way,” Kuhn stated in an email to FOX31.
Kuhn said it’s not accurate to say that the city is doing more cleanups ahead of July. The city has been doing two to three cleanups a week for several months, according to Kuhn.
“It’s very likely we’ve done more cleanups this year, year-to-date, than 2020; we scaled back starting in the March/April timeframe last year due to COVID-19,” Kuhn wrote.
There is trash surrounding unsanctioned homeless encampments. Sidewalks are hard to pass in certain areas. The city has previously noted sanitation and health concerns. Those are big reasons why Sinclair believes the All-Star Game will inevitably push her farther away from the downtown core.
“I’ve asked the cops themselves if it’s for that reason … and they said yeah,” Sinclair said referring to the upcoming game.
Denver officials said the city is sheltering roughly 3,000 people nightly, compared to the roughly 1,000 people living in unsanctioned homeless encampments. Since COVID hit, the city and its partners have been able to rehouse 1,831 households. More options are being formulated thanks to federal dollars — and various city funds — including a $30 million affordable housing fund, according to the city.
With a lack of interest in shelters, advocates say more camping opportunities are needed. Denver has made way for sanctioned camping locations in Capitol Hill and Park Hill. Dunning said, it’s not enough.
“We need about 50 of those [sanctioned camps],” he explained.
Mayor Hancock is expected to go into detail on new housing initiatives during a press conference on Wednesday.