Roughly One Hundred People Swept From Streets and Their Survival Winter Gear Thrown Away
Denver–On Tuesday December 15th Denver Police Department (district 6) forced out about 100 people without homes who live along the streets by Lawrence/Broadway/Park Avenue near Samaritan House. Police told everyone they had to leave somewhere, go to the shelter, or they would face arrest. One woman who was victim of this sweep said the cops told her she could grab one bag and everything else she owns would be thrown away. She grabbed all she could as quickly as she could but police threw away the rest of her belongings – mostly survival gear such as blankets and tarps.
There have been roughly 50 to 150 people staying in this area, looking after each other, for at least a year. Many people staying there in the winter have created makeshift tarp covers in order to stay warm and dry. While police have regularly swept through the area and forced people to uncover themselves in accordance with the camping ban for periods of time (examples of can be seen on video here or here) and thrown away people’s belongings including shopping carts– not until now have they swept everyone out en masse, threatening arrest, and throwing away everyone’s belongings.
This took place the day after police swept out about a dozen homeless Resurrection Village residents at 6 a.m. in the blizzarding cold (which can be seen on video here).
Police say the trash and obstruction of the sidewalk had just come to the last straw. Certainly there have been issues with trash and obstructing the sidewalk in this area. But does that give police the right to make everyone leave, tell them if they return they will be arrested, and throw away people’s survival gear in the middle of winter?
Police justify this and other sweeps by saying they will take everyone to a shelter. But no matter how you do the math, this does not add up. The 2015 Point In Time Count, known to be an undercount but which is the number used by the city and HUD to count people experiencing homelessness, counted 3,456 people experiencing homelessness in Denver city proper on one night. A liberal count of emergency shelter beds in Denver is around 1,500 beds. If you do the math that is 9 people for every 4 shelter beds. But more importantly shelters are not jail, so no one should be forced to go there, and choosing not to go should not result in possessions being taken by the police. There are countless reasons why a great many people will not or cannot live in shelters including: couples not wanting to be separated from their partners; having a pet; working hours that do not correspond with shelter hours; mental health; health issues in shelters; having a need for autonomy/humanity/independence. Even police know they cannot force people into shelters, but nonetheless they continue to threaten people under the camping ban to move along and pretend like pushing people into shelters is an option. This is not common sense, respectful, or humane. This must stop!
Please call district 6 Police department at 720-913-2800 and ask the police to…
–stop kicking people out and moving people “away”
–stop pretending like there are enough shelters beds for all those who are homeless or that people can be forced to go to a shelter as if it is a jail
–stop throwing away people’s belongings including survival winter gear
Please call the Mayor’s office at 720-865-9090 and tell him this is not the way enlightened cities are addressing homelessness. They are allocating funds and getting low income housing built quickly.
Please call your city councilperson at 720-337-2000 and tell them to stop this disrespectful inhumane way of treating Denver’s homeless residents.
Please call the Governor’s office at 303-866-2471 and tell him the people of Colorado need the Right to Rest!