Denver, CO

Denver sweeps homeless encampments in sub-zero temperatures

David Heitz
An encampment along the roadside in the Central Park neighborhood.John Staughton/Denver Homeless Out Loud

Denver crews swept away a few homeless encampments shortly after dawn Thursday in sub-zero temperatures in the Central Park neighborhood.

An advocate for the homeless who attended the sweep, but asked not to be named out of fear of retaliation, said workers told the homeless, "the city switched banks," and no hotel or motel vouchers were available.

But a representative of the city's Department of Transportation and Infrastructure, or DOTI, said there were no such problems and vouchers were distributed.

"As part of its regular procedures, and as required by a federal court settlement and judicial order, DOTI gave a week’s notice that it was coming to clean up that area today due to deteriorating conditions," Nancy Kuhn of DOTI reported in an e-mail to NewsBreak. "We provide that notice so that people are aware and can find alternate shelter options and the city has a team that outreaches to people in advance to offer those options. Some people decided to stay and we worked with them again today to try to connect them to services and shelter.

"It is the city’s position that no one should be living in an area that was not meant for human habitation especially when there are city services available to help people experiencing homelessness."
A backhoe destroys a homeless encampment Thursday in the Central Park neighborhood.John Staughton/Denver Homeless Out Loud

During the sweep, a person lay down in front of a Bobcat to try to prevent it from destroying property, the advocate said.

Video provided by John Staughton of the Denver homeless advocacy group Denver Homeless Out Loud shows the Bobcat destroying a tent.

A couple of tents, a lot of RVs

The sweep area included the road behind the Renaissance Hotel, where "hostile architecture" has sprouted. The so-called hostile architecture includes giant concrete barriers. The goal is to prevent erecting tents there.

The sweep also included the road on the south side of Martin Luther King Park. That area is inhabited mainly by people living in their RVs.

Police assembled in their warm cars on Oneida Street, next to the park, and supervised the sweep.

One displaced man said he already has spoken to City Council member Candi CdeBaca about the sweep. He could not immediately be reached for additional comment.

Encampment assembled quickly

NewsBreak reported in November that the encampment had quickly assembled. What started with one RV soon turned into several.

At that time, a representative of LivWell Enlightened Health on Oneida Street said it had complained to the city about the encampments, but the city had done nothing.

People living in RVs have some protection from the elements, but finding a parking spot is challenging.

Advocates for the homeless in Denver repeatedly have said time the city needs more safe parking spaces where the homeless can park at night.

Thursday's sweep area is near a portable toilet at Martin Luther King Park that always is open.

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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 local newspapers in the country. Today, I report on Denver City Hall, homelessness and other topics for NewsBreak, much like I did in my twenties covering Newport Beach, Calif. for the Daily Pilot. I consider myself a lucky guy to still be doing what I love after so many years.

Denver, CO

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