The sweeps of homeless camps in Denver have drawn criticism from advocates for the homeless community who say they result in people being pushed into further corners of our community. Benjamin Dunning with Denver Homeless Out Loud says the sweeps are also resulting in the loss of life saving gear like blankets and sleeping bags.
Dunning says the encampments are a result of the broken shelter system, where there are not enough beds, where couples are split up and many are not accessible for people with mobility issues. “There are a lot of reasons why people either can’t fit into the shelter or the shelters that we have aren’t appropriate, so they make other arrangements.”
As a result, many homeless are forced to live on the streets. “To protect themselves several folks of our homeless communities have gathered together in camps to watch out for each other and we’re disrupting these camps, leaving folks vulnerable to more violence.”
The sweeps are the subject of a class action lawsuit against the city of Denver. On Tuesday, Denver Homeless Out Loud, along with several other social justice organizations, sent a letter to Denver Mayor Michael Hancock calling for the city to stop the sweeps and repeal the camping ban.
“The city of Denver owns plots of land throughout the city that are currently sitting vacant while the city is chasing homeless people around and out of every visible square inch. We demand that public assets be used for the public good and accordingly that the city designate at least one vacant plot where homeless people can find rest and safety in tents, vehicles, or the like right now this winter.
Until there is actual attainable low-income housing enough to meet the need of the thousands of people, with numbers growing each day, who can’t afford Denver’s rents, people will be living on the streets of Denver. Shelters are not an option for hundreds of people. The city must hear the cry of people without housing and let people cover themselves from the winter weather and be seen.”
On Wednesday evening there will be a rally at 6pm at the City and County building at 1437 Bannock in Denver demanding an end to the sweeps and asking for people to bring sleeping bags for those who are sleeping on the streets.