Denver non-profit raising concerns about how Denver is dealing with homelessness in the city

Says criminalization of homeless is not the answer
Posted at 6:07 PM, Jul 19, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-19 20:07:39-04

DENVER, Colo. -- Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, a Denver non-profit organization, is raising new concerns about how Denver is dealing with its homeless problem.

The group says criminalization is not the answer.

"We understand that there is a role for police and a role for some kind of enforcement in this area, but we just would like to see it happen with some real long term solutions -- like the creation of more services," said Cathy Alderman, a member of the non-profit.

Denver Police cleared out a homeless encampment at Confluence Park in the middle of the night last week.

Denver Homeless Out Loud posted a video of the incident on Facebook.

As a result, DPD said 36 people were cited for violating park curfews.

The sweep came just months after the city cleared out other camps on Lawrence Street, and days after Denver Mayor Michael Hancock announced new plans to deal with homelessness during his annual state of the city address.

As a part of these efforts, Mayor Hancock unveiled the creation of a new office, called the Office of Hope (Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere).

"We were really disappointed and discouraged to hear that later, that very same week people were being moved along -- especially in areas where at least they felt they had been sent to," said Alderman.

Alderman also said they're concerned about the shift to criminalize the homeless.

"It's not fair to tell somebody that they are a criminal just because they don't have a home," she said.

The Colorado Coalition for the Homeless also said it believes the city is only moving the problem to other parks, trails and neighborhoods, which is forcing the homeless to live in constant fear.

"They become more traumatized and upset and so we're really making a bad situation worse by continuing to displace people," said Alderman.

Sonny Jackson, a spokesperson for Denver Police, said the department is not targeting the homeless, but does patrol after receiving complaints. 

Jackson also said officers had a case worker with them during the clear out at Confluence Park who was able to connect people with services to help them find places to stay.

Denver Human Services provided this statement to Denver7:

"Each day, thousands of people in our city who are experiencing homelessness seek help through shelters, supportive housing, safe havens and a wide variety of programs supported by the city. We are committed to helping them achieve overall wellbeing so that they can achieve their full potential. Not all who are homeless seek this help however, and that's why we have outreach programs to try to reach and help those who are on the streets. We maintain that being on the street is not the best way to move from homelessness. It is very hard to achieve stability of any kind when you're on the street which is why we encourage shelter use. We continue to work with our nonprofit partners, like Coalition for the Homeless, to identify new ways to reach this segment of the population and to refine our existing programs to better help those in need."