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'It's never been this bad': Trash, encampments concern families in west Washington Park

Trash and debris at homeless encampment
Posted at 9:38 PM, Feb 13, 2023

DENVER — For months, Norman Brown has been watching homeless encampments and garbage piles accumulate just down from his Denver home at the I-25 off-ramp to Lincoln Street and beneath the I-25 overpass of Broadway. He reached out to Denver7, saying he has become increasingly concerned for his family’s health and safety.

“Over the last year, there has been a lot of buildup of garbage and trash, which is really affecting the community here,” said Brown, who has lived in the area for seven years. “It’s never been this bad. And with the wind, there’s a lot of debris that flies into the area. I’ve got a young family, and over the last year, it has been difficult to deal with. [There’s] drug use, crime.”

Brown says on a daily basis now, he wakes up to trash in his yard, and has seen vehicles get flat tires from debris strewn across the road. He says he has been reporting the issue to both the city of Denver and the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) for months, but has not seen lasting improvement.

“If this is not resolved, I know a lot of families here might move away, which is not going to help,” Brown said.

Trash and encampments along streets, highways, and interstates is a growing problem in Colorado — one that costs more than $2 million each year to address, according to CDOT.

A spokesperson for CDOT told Denver7 that the agency cannot clear out encampments until local law enforcement has safely removed the people living there. Even with that, CDOT clears out two to three encampments each week, adding up to several tons of trash and debris.

“CDOT’s number one priority is the safety of the traveling public and the crews who maintain and build roads for the millions of people who use the transportation system every day,” said Tamara Rollison, a spokesperson for CDOT. “Crews also clean up trash from roadways that vehicles leave behind. A great deal of coordination with other agencies is required for CDOT to remove homeless encampments on CDOT property.”

Even when an encampment is cleared and trash is removed, it is common for the problem to return quickly after. Brown says city crews cleared one of the camps he had reported on Broadway in late January. Within a week, the trash had returned and was once again blowing into his yard.

“Every morning you just find, you know, packets of cigarettes and just trash in your yard. And when you have your kids, toddlers, walking around and just picking it up — it's just gross,” Brown said. “All this traffic, the first thing they see when they meet Denver from the highway is basically all the trash. So it’s somewhat embarrassing to say I live in Denver at the moment because every time I invite someone, this is the first thing they see… This is not representative of Denver.”

Reports of trash or debris along state roads, highways, and interstates can be made to CDOT through the agency’s website. For city streets within Denver, reports can be made through pocketgov Denver.


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