DENVER – Mayor Michael Hancock has ordered police to stop taking blankets and other survival gear away from the homeless, after video surfaced showing officers enforcing the ongoing homeless sweeps as temperatures dipped to the low 20s in the City of Denver.
The “cold-weather adjustment” to the camping bans will be in effect through the end of April.
“As a city, we have a responsibility and moral obligation to protect the lives of our residents. Urban camping-- especially during cold, wet weather -- is dangerous and we don’t want to see any lives lost on the streets when there are safe, warm places available for people to sleep at night,” Hancock said in response to a letter sent by ACLU Colorado officials on Friday. “Every night, we have beds open for people to sleep and every day we have safe places and resources to help people experiencing homelessness.”
Hancock added, “We never intended to take the belongings that people need to keep them warm.”
Below, Facebook Live video of a sweep that happened on Nov. 29.
“It is not an inherent crime to sleep outside, and many people right now have no other viable option. Denver’s shelters are simply unable to serve all people in the Denver area experiencing homelessness, even in the short term, much less as a long-term solution,” said ACLU of Colorado Executive Director Nathan Woodliff-Stanle in a letter addressed to the mayor and members of City Council. “Until real solutions become Denver’s priority, the city’s ongoing policing-first approach to homelessness is a cruel waste of funds, curtailing fundamental constitutional rights, causing deep human suffering, and endangering lives.”
Over the past two weeks, police have issued nine citations to seven people, according to a spokesperson for Hancock’s office. In the past year, 995 homeless people have been placed into housing, according to the mayor’s office.
"The Denver Chief of Police has seen the mayor's directive and of course Denver police will follow it," said DPD Technician Eranda Piyasena.
Homeless people and advocates have called for an end to the sweeps for months.