Denver, CO

Denver business owners want more homeless encampment sweeps

David Heitz
Denver Homeless Out Loud

One Denver business owner said Monday that encampment sweeps work, and others pleaded with the City Council to step up the cleanups. It comes at a time when the city is suing the person behind a November bond question that would require Denver to clean up encampments within three days of a complaint.

The requests were made during public comment period. City council members do not respond to comments made during public comment time.

Public comment period has become a weekly arena for voicing concerns and debating issues about homelessness. The exchanges become heated, and City Council President Stacie Gilmore has had to remind people not to use foul language.

On Monday, a new prohibition was listed to the comment rules, “including disparaging other people’s motives.”

Golden Triangle property owner pleased

Terry Hildebrandt, a property owner in the Golden Triangle, lauded the council and those responsible for aggressively sweeping the homeless from his neighborhood. He credited “increased police patrols to remove encampments quickly.”

But he said problems have worsened elsewhere, calling Union Station “drug infested.” He said residents of Capitol Hill are afraid to go to sleep at night.

Lucas Johnson is the president of the Broadway Merchants Association. The association represents more than 100 businesses with revenues of more than $150 million annually.

Johnson said even the association’s “most liberal members” are disgusted with the encampments and want them removed. He said doing business in Denver already is difficult due to red tape and slow permitting times.

Business owners’ employees threatened

He said businesses that do manage to open must deal with human feces on the sidewalk and threats against their employees by people experiencing homelessness.

Samantha Partlow referenced living near a camp at 10th and Corona. “I didn’t know the extent of how horrific it would become.”

She said residents of the encampment would scream all night long. One man broke the railing off her building's stairs, saying he was trying to bend a pipe, Partlow said.

She has become unable to sleep at night due to the noise, she said. Despite having a spinal injury, she moved from sleeping in the bedroom, where a window faces the encampments, to the living room couch. But then the encampment spilled into the parking lot behind her living room, too. So now there is no quiet place.

Woman tormented by encampments

She said some residents of the encampments have come inside her building because there’s a tenant who lets them in. She said some residents have been threatened with sexual assault by the encampment dwellers.

Partlow said the encampments have affected her performance at work. She pleaded with the council to do something about the encampments.

All of those who spoke out against the encampments said they are concerned about people experiencing homelessness living on the street during the coming winter. Hildebrandt broke into tears.

Brandy Majors, a formerly homeless woman, called the concerns crocodile tears. "You all don't really care about (people experiencing homelessness), you just don't want to see them."

Broadway business owner describes mess

But Hildebrandt said the Golden Triangle is considerably cleaner after a strong police presence. “Golden Triangle has proven we can clean up a mess.”

Sean Workman, who owns The Hornet restaurant on Broadway, said 18 years ago he knew the name of every homeless person with a five-block radius. That is no longer the case, as there are homeless people everywhere.

“People are scared of what they see out our windows every day,” he said. Patrons of his business have renamed happy hour “zombie hour” to describe the scene out the windows.

Workman said he spends a lot of time cleaning up garbage and human feces and replacing broken windows (five in six months). “It’s costly, it’s scary … we have watched this go downhill for far too long.” He said businesses on the Broadway corridor are losing customers over the homelessness problem.

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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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