Capitol Hill neighbors frustrated over homeless camp encroaching on Morey Middle School

Problem Solvers
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DENVER (KDVR) — Residents in the Capitol Hill neighborhood say a homeless camp is spreading and encroaching on a local middle school.

Neighbors living around Morey Middle School near East 14th Avenue and Clarkson Street are fed up. They say trash and drug needles are littering the block. They’re calling on Denver leaders to do more to enforce the city’s camping ban.

“Every block is packed with tents and trash,” one neighbor who did not want to be identified said.

Brendan McCormick has lived in Cap Hill for five years and says just in the last two months, the area has been overtaken by this homeless encampment. He says he has seen drug use and prostitution.

But this is only one neighborhood in Denver dealing with a homeless issue. Nancy Kuhn with Denver’s Joint Information Center said, “There are several encampment areas in the city where we’re seeing unsafe, unhealthy and unclean conditions. This site is among them.”

But in terms of offering any type of solution, Kuhn only said “crews visit the area regularly to pick up trash.”

The Denver Rescue Mission says COVID-19 shelter restrictions could play a role in more people camping on the streets.

“For some it is that worry about COVID, but it’s hard to say what those exact reasons are for people not coming in,” Nicole Tschetter, Public Relations Manager with the Denver Rescue Mission said. 

But the city has created large emergency shelters and offered hotel rooms. The FOX31 Problem Solvers obtained numbers that show only 456 of 810 hotel rooms were occupied Sunday night by homeless, leaving plenty of space.

Denver periodically conducts “homeless sweeps” when an area is deemed a health hazard – but the city says often that does not deter campers from returning after the sweep. 

Now, neighbors are calling for city leaders to do more to alleviate the issue.

“I would like to see city leaders step up – a solution that would house it one area where they would have access to basic human rights and needs,” McCormick said.

Morey Middle School and the Denver School of Innovation and Sustainable Design share the campus at 14th and Clarkson. Denver Public Schools is working with the city to resolve the situation before classes resume in August. 

DPS provided the following statement:

“In a spirit of care, concern and compassion for all, we understand that homelessness has no boundaries, including impacting young children and families. Homelessness continues to be a significant concern for many families in Denver, and we understand that city officials are working hard to address this challenge. At the same time, Denver Public Schools takes its responsibility for the safety and well-being of our students as a top priority. Principals at both schools on the Morey Campus are working with the City of Denver and DPS support teams, including the Depts. of Safety and Facilities, to help resolve the situation before school resumes in the fall.”

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