DENVER – City workers on Wednesday morning arrived at Morey Middle School to clear the sidewalks, streets and green spaces of the remaining encampment and to clean the area, which has been home to people experiencing homelessness for more than a month.
The cleanup had been planned for weeks as health and sanitation complaints to the city streamed in about the camp, which was set up after people experiencing homelessness were moved off the property of a church across the street in Denver’s Capitol Hill neighborhood.
On Monday, organizers, volunteers and employees from Denver Homeless Out Loud and the city of Denver did outreach at the encampment, offering people living there the opportunity to relocate and other services, like transportation and free storage, ahead of the expected sweep.
The unhoused people living at the Morey encampment and others in Denver, as well as organizations that support people experiencing homelessness in the city, have lamented the lack of options as the city still tries to figure out where it will put sanctioned camping sites.
A group of people living near Morey Middle School last weekend started a fundraiser to try to get the city to address the encampment but said that a permanent solution for people experiencing homelessness is needed.
Ann Cecchine-Williams, the Deputy Director of the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment, said in a statement Wednesday that despite the outreach this week, “significant public health risks remain, and access must be temporarily restricted so the area can be cleaned and hazards removed.”
She said that the department posted an order limiting access to both sides of the streets, along the sidewalks and alleys near Morey – near the intersections of 13th Ave. and Clarkson Street.
“This restriction is needed to allow for the immediate clearing, cleaning and mitigation of public health and environmental risks to this public area,” Cecchine-Williams said. “The area restriction is temporary, and the area will re-open when abatement and clean-up measures have restored this location to a safe and stable state.”
The department said homeless outreach and mental health workers will continue to work in the area to try to get unhoused people into shelters or housing.
Last Friday, Mayor Michael Hancock defended the sweeps, which also took place in front of the state Capitol last week, leading to a clash between police and protesters, saying the encampments had become public health and safety issues.
"We have a balancing act we have to achieve here,” Hancock said. “We have to not only protect those who are in the encampments. We have to protect and keep safe the general public ... we are not going to compromise on that."
The cleanup at the site was still underway at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, though many of the people who had been living there were gone.