Rescue mission cleans baseball crowd's trash

Posted at 4:59 PM, Apr 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-09 20:47:41-04

The nonprofit Denver Rescue Mission teamed up with the Colorado Rockies to clean up after the large crowds that attended the home opener.

Dozens of volunteers hit the streets Saturday to clean up after the thousands of fans who attended the Rockies versus the Padres game. Rescue mission staff, as well as program participants, all marched through downtown shoving trash into plastic bags. Litter covered most parking lots, alleys and sidewalks in the two blocks around Coors Field.

One of the program participants walked the street, recollecting how he decided to change his life.

"I was caught up on drugs for about 3 years -- drugs and alcohol. My life was going into the dumpster," said Garland Simpkins. "One night I was three blocks from Jesus Saves in an alley, smoking crack and I started hearing a voice telling me the devil was chasing me for real."

Simpkins said it was this spiritual moment that got him out of the alley, and into a program to get his life back on track.

"I got my life together, I'm no longer on drugs," he said. Simpkins is now looking forward to opening his own business.

But as some of the homeless helped clean the streets, others question whether it's fair to allow large crowds to clutter the sidewalks when the streets have been cleaned of the down-and-out.

"If you can pay to go to a Rockies game you can throw trash all over our beautiful city. But people through no fault of their own -- and they're homeless -- they can't turn around and live in public space," said Maryanna Thompson.

Thompson is a member of Denver Homeless Out Loud, a group who protested at the Rockies home opener. The group has been vocal about Denver's Urban Camping ban. Near the Lawrence Street shelter, homeless people can still be seen wandering the streets, despite being told to not camp the downtown area at night.

Even though there are beds available in shelters, representatives at Denver Rescue Mission say it's rare to fill the 640 beds, even during the winter. Spokesperson Alexxa Gagner said the Rescue Mission can find places for the homeless to go, but some don't reach out. Even though homeless were told to no longer camp outside, some are still not going into the shelters.

"For people that are chronically homeless, it's very scary for them to come inside. This is their norm," said Thompson. 

Thompson suggested the solution is a homeless camp somewhere in the city. Denver has plans in the works for affordable housing, but she thinks even that won't fix the problem.

"Not everyone is fit for shelter," she said.

When asked a question about the chronically homeless, Simpkins had this response:

"I was out here just like them. I didn't have any money, I didn't have any body push me. I just decided that enough was enough and I got up and God lead me to the program and opened the door."


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