Denver, CO

Homeless advocates play hardball during MLB All-Star week

David Heitz

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Lesly Juarez/Unsplash

The day is almost here: The Major League Baseball All-Star Game is July 13. And advocates for people experiencing homelessness are playing hardball.

A healthcare worker who volunteers at the homeless encampment “displacements,” as Denver Homeless Out Loud calls the sweeps, alerted NewsBreak to a story Thursday.

She said a city crew had begun to illegally sweep an encampment at 18th and Welton. She said the presence of homeless advocates caused the workers to leave.

“They did not go through with it,” Tara Shanti Kane said. “We had a party there last night to feed and watch over that community.

“To our knowledge they have not been back or posted. They stopped when they saw us gathering. No one had an explanation for the sweep.”

By a judge’s ruling, Denver must notify residents of homeless encampments a few days before the sweeps. Denver Homeless Out Loud attends every sweep and documents everything. They write down the numbers of squad cars, record cops interacting with displaced homeless people, and ask tough questions.

Their record-keeping is meticulous and their activism like a reporter wanting to tell an important story. Denver Mayor Michael Hancock says the city hasn’t increased sweep frequency to “clean up” before the All-Star game, as advocates for the homeless allege. But Denver Homeless Out Loud records show otherwise. They say the sweeps have doubled or even tripled in frequency as we get closer to game day.

Now, a new force advocating for people experiencing homelessness in Denver has appeared online. It comes in the form of StopTheSweeps.com.

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Photo/Denver Homeless Out Loud

StopTheSweeps.com blasts mayor’s sweeps

StopTheSweeps.com is a great URL to land, given the fact that sweeps of homeless encampments is a national problem. Whomever landed the URL must be forward-thinking.

“Stopthesweeps.com is unaffiliated with any organizations and exists only as an educational resource,” the website explains on its “About” page. It then identifies Denver Homeless Out Loud, Kelsang Virya and Emancipation Theatre Co. as people and organizations worthy of support. Emancipation Theater Co. supports the work of a city accountability group called “Allies to Abolitionists.”

With just one click, people angry about homeless sweeps can email the Denver mayor from the site. StopTheSweeps even offers a sample letter to Hancock:

“As a taxpayer in this city, I demand that you stop wasting our funds on sweeps and direct funding towards sanctioned camps with proper sanitation. As the city claims the sweeps are in the interest of public safety and health, the obvious solution is providing sanitation and trash to communities living on the street.

“To be clear: As a tax paying resident of Denver, Colorado and one of the constituents to whom you swore an oath I am demanding that you

  • “Stop sweeping homeless camps.
  • “Provide designated, sanctioned camping areas.
  • “Ensure these camps are served with adequate sanitation and trash services.”

The site includes costs associated with the sweeps obtained by Allies to Abolitionists. The community group did its own research and completed information request forms to obtain data.

Sweeps cost about $21,000 each, advocacy group reports

“Community advocate group Allies To Abolitionists has estimated the cost of sweeps by meticulously monitoring city employee presence and utilizing known costs such as their hourly pay rates and the cost of contracted expenses like fencing,” StopTheSweeps reports. “While these estimates vary by the size of the sweep, $21,000 was the average cost in 2020. This figure is conservative, taking into account only known costs. It does not include behind-the-scenes costs to the city, personnel requirements not seen at sweeps, or anti-homeless infrastructure such as boulders.”

In many instances, the encampments are replaced with rocks or boulders instead of grass. The site also explains that encampments exist because homeless shelters do not offer enough beds.

“Shortcomings in emergency shelter policies and practices, a sense of community and safety within encampments, and a desire for autonomy and privacy contribute to some people’s preferences for encampments over shelters,” a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban development report concludes.

StopTheSweeps.com also explains how Safe Outdoor Spaces can help fight homelessness.

Educational campaigns about Denver’s homelessness issue are many. More people are learning about the complicated issue of homelessness through the tireless work of these groups.

They’ve proven to be heavy hitters when it comes to advocacy for Denver’s homeless, especially during the time leading up to Major League Baseball All-Star Game.

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I have been in the news business more than 30 years, spending much of my career at some of the best newspapers in the country. Today, I specialize in Denver local news, health reporting, social justice issues, addiction/recovery/mental health news, and topics surrounding homelessness and human trafficking.

Denver, CO
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