DENVER -- A row of vacant homes near 7th and Grant are close to a grocery store and several restaurants, but behind the boarded up windows was a haven for the homeless.
Steven Furlong said he's slept in every single one of those homes. In all, he stayed there for five months. He found out about the homes through a friend who offered him a warm place to sleep.
“I’m not trying to be a criminal, I’m just trying to survive like everybody else," said Furlong.
On the streets, the homes are referred to as "bandos" a slang term referring to an abandoned property. Word tends to spread fast, especially because the homes on Grant had heat and electricity.
"We are human and we were warm that night and that's what matters," said Furlong.
As Denver7's Liz Gelardi and a photographer set up for a live shot Wednesday night they noticed lights on inside a vacant home near East Colfax and Quebec. They peered in the basement people and noticed people inside, someone was also sleeping in the detached garage.
A spokesperson for the city called the discovery "concerning" but did not offer any other solutions besides boarding up the homes and putting up a fence.
Neighbors are also encouraged to call police if they see any evidence of break-ins or squatting. Many of these vacant homes have generated numerous 911 calls. Records show 13 calls came in about the property near East Colfax over the past year.
"I know that our outreach team is really trying to connect people to services and to housing and so we hope that people aren’t being forced to sleep in vacant homes or on the streets," said Cathy Alderman with the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless.
Furlong said he continued to sleep in the homes on Grant even after police showed up. At first he said they got in through the windows and then found a way to get in despite the boards.
He is currently sleeping on the street but said he just stayed in another vacant home the other day. He also acknowledges what he's been doing is illegal and has a message for the owner.
"Thank you, I’m sorry at the same time but you really did a lot of people good," said Furlong.