DENVER -- The large scale cleanups of homeless “camps” downtown have pitted the city and some activists against one another. The city says they’re about health and safety, but some homeless advocates call them "inhumane" sweeps.
However, there’s a third side that involves people who make the decision to enter a shelter as a result, and possibly get help to put their life on a positive track.
“It was a small home but it was mine.”
That’s how a woman known as Deedee described her tent on the sidewalk next to The Samaritan House. Deedee is in a wheelchair, recovering from back surgeries. She refused to enter a shelter.
“Horror stories are enough for you to pitch a tent and not even worry about it,” she said.
City crews came by in late October to clean up those sidewalks. Denver Public Works claimed at the time that the encampment of about 200 people was a public safety risk. Homeless advocates told Denver7’s Russell Haythorn that it was a “mass displacement by means of brute force.”
Deedee had a decision to make: find somewhere to pick up and move to, or head inside.
“I gave in and it was one of the best decisions of my life,” she said.
She’s now getting three meals a day, taking classes on money management, and working on finding housing as a part of the extended stay program at The Samaritan House.
“I, too, had that hopelessness and it’s no longer there,” she told Denver7.
“If we can get people in the shelters as a result of the cleanup we’re here to support that,” Mike Sinnett, VP of Shelters for Catholic Charities said.
Sinnett oversees The Samaritan House. He’s seen the sweeps and heard the criticisms.
“Do you believe these large scale homeless cleanups are a net positive?” Denver7’s Jason Gruenauer asked.
“I think it’s too early to tell, quite frankly,” Sinnett answered.
Only a handful of people have come into the shelter directly as a result of the sweeps. But Sinnett says those who have are receiving help.
“If we can find a success story in a challenging situation, that’s why were here,” he said.
A success story like Deedee. She’s now next on a waiting list for permanent housing.
“It was made possible because I came in these front doors,” she said. “I’m on my way.”
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