CDOT spends tens of thousands per month cleaning up tent encampments

Problem Solvers

Homeless encampment on CDOT property (KDVR)

DENVER (KDVR) — The Colorado Department of Transportation removed four to five homeless camps a week during the summer, according to data released to the Problem Solvers. 

“CDOT has had to increase the resources needed to clean up homeless camps in the past four years, including hiring an administrator to coordinate the homeless camp cleanups, designating a skid steer and trash truck to the homeless camp cleanup team and providing Kevlar gloves to the homeless camp cleanup team,” said Presley Fowler, with CDOT. 

Crews pick up tons of trash and hazardous waste at tent encampments along major highways and interstates like 70, 25, 270 and 225. 

The most expensive cleanup this year was in June, totaling $10,804 for an encampment on southbound I-25. 

According to a spreadsheet released by CDOT, the department in June spent $74,000 to remove trash, debris and hazardous waste, such as needles and feces, from 20 tent locations on CDOT property.  

CDOT places “no trespassing” signs at locations seven days before scheduled cleanups. If encampments are located where signs exist, a cleanup administrator posts a seven-day notice. 

Crews cannot remove trespassers without law enforcement assistance, and police and workers serve eviction notices before cleanup crews and heavy equipment move in.

If tent encampments are too close to roadways for heavy equipment to pick up the debris, workers use shovels, rakes and pitchforks to bag trash for disposal.  

Tent encampment near SB 225 (KDVR)

CDOT put cleanup procedures in place in 2017 to ensure the homeless are given notification and educated on the dangers of being near a roadway, overpass bridge or culvert.

Fowler added,” The procedures also provide guidelines for the safety of CDOT personnel, which includes mandatory personal protective equipment gear.”

CDOT said safety concerns not only include vehicles leaving the roadway and debris from vehicles striking a tent, but also concerns for the traveling public. 

Approximately $3 million is spent annually to clean up tent encampments. 

Last year, CDOT cleaned up an average of two to three tent sites a week and will remove trash and debris off private property Tuesday through Thursday during the winter. 

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