DENVER — Preparations are well underway outside Coors Field as Opening Day approaches for the Colorado Rockies. But there’s one act that's drawing harsh criticism.
“It’s disgraceful, and they’re not trying to solve the problem,” said Grant Francis, an advocate with Mutual Aid Monday, which provides meals every Monday night to those experiencing homelessness. “They’re just trying to provide some optics that make it look like they’re trying to do something.”
Homeless advocates like Francis are calling out the City of Denver, yet again, for homeless encampment sweeps.
“It doesn’t surprise me that Coors Field is one of the targets,” Francis said. “It’s anywhere where there’s an event that generates any kind of income for the city.”
This week, areas around Coors Field are ground zero for sweeps, just nine days before the Rockies home opener.
“The approach to the homeless situation currently, by the current administration, is an absolute failure,” said Amy Beck, a homeless activist who does direct street outreach. “I provide food, water and warmth to folks, which is what they need to stay alive.”
Beck points out this is exactly what happened a year ago.
“And last year, there was a protest the day of Opening Day,” Beck said.
Mayor Michael Hancock’s administration has been sharply criticized for years for encampment sweeps and what some describe as a general sense of inaction when it comes to permanent housing solutions.
“Moving people around is not solving anything. It’s not getting anyone more shelter,” Francis said. “It’s actually causing people to have less shelter because they’re getting their tents and heat thrown out.”
“I’ve been there. I’ve been homeless several times, which most people don’t know about,” said Phillip Wilson, who empathizes with the unhoused and those living in encampments. “I don’t really think they’re doing much for the homeless, in my opinion. But there are services out there. We just need to be better about connecting people to services.”
Others say, comparatively, Denver seems to have some control.
“I think this city is nice,” said Caz Boykins. “I’m from the Atlanta area. Atlanta, New York — the homeless population is crazy there. People are sleeping on streets, under bridges. It’s far worse than here.”
Activists believe — rather than sweeps — basic services, like trash pick-up, would be a temporary solution to a massive crisis.
“The sweeps need to stop,” Beck said. “And we need to provide some basic sanitation to the camps. We need to do trash removal and provide bathrooms and access to clean water.”
Advocates are hoping the Denver's incoming mayor has a better plan.
“I really hope that from day one, we take immediate action,” Beck said of the next administration.
“It’s got to be housing,” Francis said. “There has to be housing provided for people.”