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Cleanup scheduled after encampment moves in across from Denver elementary school

Posted at 5:42 PM, May 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-20 20:34:10-04

DENVER — A cleanup is scheduled for next week after a group of homeless people moved in across a Denver elementary school.

Kieran Schweidel, a parent of a 7-year-old at Polaris Elementary, says he first noticed the tents at the beginning of this week. A video he shared with Denver7 shows someone sleeping beneath a window on school property as recently as Thursday.

"Having to drop your kid off right across the street, you know, it's not comfortable," he said Friday. "Why choose right here? And if you think you put [your tent] down, you look out, you're like, "Oh, wait, there's a school. Maybe I should just pick my tent up and move two blocks.""

He expressed his concerns about the encampment's proximity to the school's administrators. They were already aware, he says, and had reached out to the city. That's when he learned the encampment had been given a 7-day notice.

"Mental health and homelessness often go hand-in-hand. That's a chance that could be taken outside the city. I don't feel comfortable taking that chance right next to the school," Schweidel said.

A community member, who did not want to be identified or appear on camera, was quick to point out not everyone feels the way he does.

"You're blowing this out of proportion," the woman said. "I just brought some warm clothes and hand warmers. Please know that this is not how the community feels."

Denver Public Schools sent Denver7 the following statement:

"While we are optimistic that the people here will be good neighbors, school officials have shared concerns about trash, drug paraphernalia and human waste on the playground and the sidewalks students use to get to and from the school. We are working with the community to address these issues."

Those issues are being addressed as soon as next week. A spokesperson with Denver's Department of Transportation says a large-scale cleanup is scheduled for Tuesday.

"While there are no legal exceptions to act quicker based on proximity to a school, the City does try to prioritize them," the spokesperson said.

When asked about shelter space, the city said there are hundreds of beds available to accommodate those camping near the school.