Denver plans to clear homeless camps near Samaritan House starting March 8

Critics call the move "counterproductive"

DENVER - Homeless camps that went up on sidewalks near the downtown Samaritan House homeless shelter last year will start to get cleared out by the beginning of next week. 

Denver Public Works said Friday officials plan to alert those camped outside that they would begin letting them of the changes in order to keep public spaces and sidewalks "free of obstruction." 

In a notice sent to Denver7, DPW officials stated that personal daily necessities, "such as small personal electronic devices, medications, and important documents such as identification cards, birth certificates, drivers' licenses, and health care documents," would be removed from sidewalks.

READ: City of Denver Sweep Notice

Officials said despite their Downtown Denver Homeless Outreach program, "this unsafe, unhealthy, unsanitary and inhumane situation continues."

"We know that this is not going to be a popular action, but it's necessary," said Julie Smith, a spokeswoman with Denver Human Services.

Smith said on Monday, Public Works crews will put up the notices letting people know they need to move. On Tuesday, Denver will start enforcing the rule.

First, they will get a verbal warning. If that isn't followed, Smith said it will result in a written citation and then ultimately, they could be arrested.

"Hopefully it gives people a little bit of encouragement to seek another option," said Alexxa Gagner with the Denver Rescue Mission.

The Colorado Coalition for the Homeless said the aggressive action by the city is counterproductive.

"We think it's unfortunate the city is moving aggressively to enforce the camping ban ordinance at this time," said John Parvenski, President of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless. "We agree with the city that it's not sustainable for folks to be living on the streets, camping on the streets forever, but criminalizing homelessness is not the solution."

"We feel like we really have to do something," said Smith.

Items left behind will be taken to 1221 Glenarm Place and will be available for pickup Monday through Friday from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. Unclaimed items within 30 days will be destroyed.

As far as what's preventing the homeless from picking a new location to camp?

Smith said they can't prevent that, but their hope is that through their outreach efforts and other nonprofits they can encourage more people to seek services.


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