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City cleans up encampment in downtown Denver, irking homeless and advocates

Posted at 4:50 PM, Oct 29, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-29 19:19:49-04

DENVER – The city of Denver on Monday executed one of the largest-scale homeless cleanups in its history outside the Catholic Charities Samaritan House in downtown near Larimer and Park Ave.

Denver Public Works claims the conditions of the encampment made up of about 200 people was nothing short of a public safety risk.

Homeless advocates, however, called the sweep a mass displacement by means of brute force.

The sweep shut down sidewalks and public access for much of the day Monday.

"What we've seen out here is trash, litter, feces, urine, needles," said Nancy Kuhn, a spokeswoman for Denver Public Works – which was in charge of the clean-up.

It was a street war of sorts, as those living inside the encampment yelled at police and workers.

"If we keep it cleaned up and we ain't bothering nobody, and we're not harassing anybody, we have the right to rest," said a woman who identified herself only as ‘Scrappy’ as she was taking down her tent. “I just bought this tent last night.”

"We don't want to see deaths during our upcoming cold snap," said Danica Lee, the director of public health inspections for the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment. “We had four deaths during the last cold snap.”

But homeless advocates call it nothing less than a sweep.

"You see, there's a new Denver going on here,” said attorney Jason Flores-Williams, who has already filed a lawsuit against the city for the homeless camping ban. “The new, affluent downtown Denver. And the only purpose here is to push the most vulnerable and poor citizens out of sight, out of mind."

But Denver Fire said the encampment was a safety issue.

“We’ve had 2,200 calls for service here since January,” said Denver Fire spokesman Greg Pixley. "In fact, just yesterday morning, we had our second fire in just three days."

Denver Public Works and the Department of Public Health said they warned campers last week that the camping ban would be enforced Monday.

"I can't think of a bigger challenge the city has faced," said Lee.