Denver, CO

Homeless advocates letting people die on the streets, man tells council

David Heitz
Photo byTimur Weber/Pexels

By David Heitz / NewsBreak Denver

(Denver, Colo.) A resident during public comment period of the Denver City Council meeting this week said advocates for people experiencing homelessness are “letting people die on the streets.”

Keith Pryor made his remarks Monday after the council voted to enact a new clunker law that homeless advocates say will result in more people living on the streets. He praised the council for its action, saying most Denver residents comprise “a silent majority out there who do want to be moderate.”

Pryor said activists frequently yell while “moving the goal posts” of their demands. He said the city has plenty of shelter space for people experiencing homelessness, although earlier this week city staff admitted the shelters are mostly full.

Homeless harassing downtown consumers

Pryor said people experiencing homelessness harass downtown consumers. Craig Arfsten, who also spoke during the council meeting, agreed. He said policies that allow homeless people to stay on the street “helps no one,” adding, “The pendulum has swung too far in the direction of lawlessness and away from common sense.”

Arfsten said people experiencing homelessness need addiction and mental health treatment. He has previously said current policies, which center around a Housing First model and Harm Reduction approach, “do nothing to help the unhoused change their negative behavior.”

Advocate responds

Housing First is the notion that if you house people first, you can work on problems like addiction later. Harm Reduction is the belief that even if someone reduces drug use but doesn’t completely stop it, it’s still something to be celebrated.

Amy Beck, a self-proclaimed advocate for the unhoused, said they are not “letting people die on the streets, and we’re not yelling.” She told the council she regularly visits the encampments. She expressed concerns about the city’s Street Enforcement Team, or SET, descending on encampments. “They sweep camps without saying their names, just a gang of guys going into camps, sometimes up on single women, telling them to (leave).”

She told the council the SET team works in contradiction to other outreach teams that try to connect the unhoused with shelter and services. As a result, people experiencing homelessness don’t know who to trust, she said.

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I've been in the news business 35 years, spending much of my career in editing roles at community newspapers in Southern California and the Quad-Cities of Illinois and Iowa. Upon moving to Denver in 2018, I began experiencing severe mental illness due to several traumatic experiences. I became homeless on the street for about a year before spending time in the state mental hospital. I am proof that people can rebound from even severe mental illness with proper treatment. I consider myself a lucky guy to live in a great place like Denver. I hope my writing reflects the passion I have for living in the Mile High City. You can email me news releases and story ideas at

Denver, CO

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