Lax enforcement of Denver's camping ban? No tickets ever issued under 2012 ordinance

Group says ticketing isn't the point

DENVER - Despite an urban camping ban, homeless people can still be seen sleeping along the Cherry Creek bike path.

Katie Gosiewski rides three to four miles on the path each day and says she has seen the number of encampments along the path grow significantly since mid-January.

"I think there's nobody enforcing the laws. It's not necessarily their fault, they're just using and taking advantage of what they can," Gosiewski said about the homeless population she sees in the same spot daily.

7NEWS took footage of the trail under the Broadway bridge Wednesday around 7 a.m. At least half a dozen people were sleeping under the bridge, some with tents. A clear violation of the ordinance.

"Monday morning I was riding my bike to school at 7:30 and a man was urinating on the bridge, right in front of me, and that just really rubbed me the wrong way," Gosiewski said.

7NEWS contacted Denver Police, who passed us along to Denver's Road Home. The organization is a collaboration between the City and County of Denver, Mile High United Way, homeless service providers and faith-based organizations. It is tasked to lower the city's homeless population as part of a 10 year plan.

When the urban camping ordinance passed in 2012, Denver's Road Home worked on a implementation plan with Denver Police. Together, members of the groups make up a 21-member outreach team.

"They move throughout the city", said Denver's Road Home Executive Director Bennie Milliner. "Their main objective is to contact people to make sure first and foremost that they're safe."

If an outreach worker comes across an encampment, he or she is supposed to contact Denver Police. Officers will contact the people involved and give them 72 hours to move their belongings out of the area. As long as people comply with officers, they will not be ticketed.

"I witnessed the police one time in the past six months on the bike path, telling them they needed to leave," she said. "I think if there was a better presence, at least some sort of demonstration saying this was unacceptable, (and) then things would improve."

"We are not patrolling the city to find people to ticket," said Milliner.

7NEWS reporter Lindsey Sablan asked Milliner how problem areas, like under the Broadway bridge, are handled.

He responded with a question, "If they're not contacted by by DPD or an outreach program, then how do we know where they are or what they're doing?"

For Gosiewski, that is the problem. She thinks that more presence along the bike path would discourage the inappropriate behavior that she sees every day.

To date, the city has never issued a ticket for urban camping. Milliner said that is not the goal of the ordinance. Instead, he says, they want to help people find services.

"As a city we're striving to strike a balanced approach in the way that we address the homeless issue. We have to have balance in enforcement," Milliner said.

Denver's Road Home said since the 2012 ordinance, they have made space for an additional 600 shelter beds. Right now, they are adding two mental health professionals to the team. In the last eight years, they've mentored 1,208 families out of homelessness.

Mile High United Way 211 has a complete list of homeless services. To contact Denver’s Road Home regarding a homeless matter, please call 311 or email DenversRoadHome@denvergov.org.

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