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Sweep planned for Denver encampment where two were shot

Advocates say those experiencing homelessness are being used as scapegoats
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Posted at 4:54 PM, Aug 23, 2023

DENVER — A few days after two people were shot at a homeless encampment near 17th Avenue and Logan Street in Denver, the city announced it will conduct a cleanup of the area, forcing those living in tents to leave.

“Really it came down to scapegoating the encampment residents, and just trying to find an excuse to re-traumatize them so quickly after the shooting,” said V. Reeves, a homeless advocate for the Housekeys Action Network of Denver (HAND).

“What we know from encampment residents who experienced it directly is that a woman was walking by and a man randomly came up with a mask on and started threatening her and saying something along the lines of, ‘Where are my keys?’ and then began shooting. And encampment residents were victims. They didn't know who the shooter was... the suspect is not tied to the encampment in any way,” Reeves said. “They described 18 bullets going off. And we had people who were victimized either personally by having a wound — a gunshot wound entry and exit in his back. And another person had $7,000 of damage on their vehicle, including shattered windows, which was parked right next to the tent. No news on whether there's going to be any accountability for either of those victims.”

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Local News

2 shot in uptown Denver near homeless encampment

Robert Garrison
4:13 PM, Aug 21, 2023

Reeves said the announcement of the sweep is in violation of the Lyall vs. the City of Denver settlement, a class action lawsuit brought forth by members of the unhoused community in 2016 that was finalized 2019.

“I believe that this sweep is a violation of the Lyall settlement. I believe that the encampment residents are being scapegoated. I believe that the mayor is trying to cover up something that was horrific and tragic and had nothing to do with the encampment residents to create this false sense of safety by you know, re-traumatizing and re-triggering people who are already trying to survive at this point. So I believe that this sweep needs to be canceled, and we need to be collaborating, having those conversations so that we can find real resolution and support for these people,” Reeves said.

The cleanup was initially scheduled for Wednesday morning, but Reeves said it was pushed back to Thursday after activists told city leaders encampment residents are required to receive 24-hours notice before a sweep.

“So it was supposed to be originally 24 hours. But to get your notice around 2:30 p.m., 3 p.m., that's stating that there's going to be a sweep at 10 a.m. And then having the police officers and [Street Enforcement Team] officials and [Denver Department of Public Health and Environment] reps, having them say that, 'Actually, it's going to be starting at 7 a.m., and everyone needs to be cleared out by 10 a.m.,' it was a whole lot of confusion and miscommunication. The notice itself is wrought with all kinds of problematic wording and details,” Reeves said.

Reeves said she appreciates the Johnston administration providing trash services to encampments, but called this cleanup inhumane.

The 24-hour extension provided a little bit of relief for Dina Wellers, who’s lived there for the past week.

“Couple bullets went through my tent. One of them went through and hit my neighbor. I mean, poor kid was traumatized,” Weller said.

Weller said she’s now preparing to pack up all her belongings and find a new place to live.

“My thoughts on [the sweep] are they were looking for a reason, and then that was their reason… Their words are that it's not safe for us, which is why they're going to move us. Okay, it's not safe for us because two innocent bystanders got shot. It happens all over the place. You don't make people move or shut it down. Somebody gets shot in an apartment building, you don't evict everybody and make them just move,” Weller said. “I'm not angry at any anybody that complains around here, anybody that feels unsafe. I'm not… because I can look at it from their point of view. But can they look at it from our point of view?”


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