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Denver residents express hope and frustration as new mayor sends mixed messages on approach to homelessness

Mayor Mike Johnston's first week in office saw an emergency declaration on homelessness, several community meetings and word of an end to the sweeps
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Posted at 5:00 PM, Jul 21, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-21 19:21:35-04

DENVER — An emergency declaration on homelessness, several community meetings about homelessness and then, word of an end to the homeless sweeps. That was all in new Denver Mayor Mike Johnston’s first week in office.

While there’s a lot being discussed, there’s still uncertainty about where this new administration is heading.

“I have faith,” said community organizer Brian Loma. “I’m in the meetings.”

Loma and others were at Civic Center Park Friday for an event hosted by Denver police, where services to the homeless and those in need were being provided.

“We have not seen an effective solution to end illegal camping on the streets of Denver,” said Craig Arfsten with Citizens for a Safe and Clean Denver, who was at the event on Friday.

But homeless rights activists were also in attendance, hoping for more collaboration from the city than they've seen in the past.

“We don’t support the sweeps,” said Amy Beck, a homeless rights activist. “But if they continue, we want to work with the city and (the) new administration because we got no collaboration with the prior administration.”

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Just five days in to the new mayor's administration, Denver residents are hearing a few things from the mayor's office to address the homelessness crisis: Johnston's number 1 priority is immediate action to improve the quality of life for those on the streets, while making sure to be considerate of housed neighbors. The administration will also test new approaches to see what works best to help the unhoused, including trash collection and hygiene for encampments.

While there seem to be mixed messages about whether sweeps will end or continue – one thing most agree on is that the chatter around the new mayor’s policy is at least a sign of progress — after years of what most agree was failed policy.

“The traumatic displacement of human beings from encampments to go nowhere has been what we call the decade of doom in Denver,” said Loma.

Beck, on the other hand, said she is ready to see what this new administration will bring to the table to start working toward a solution to address the homelessness issue.

“I think Johnston’s open to ideas,” Beck said. “I’m really glad to see him declare a state of emergency which I think is where we need to start."

Denver residents express hope and frustration on mayor’s plan to address homelessness

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