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Group protests Denver mayor’s veto of bill preventing homeless sweeps in freezing weather

Posted at 4:47 PM, Feb 03, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-05 09:36:18-05

DENVER — Members of a nonprofit gathered outside Denver's City and County Building Saturday morning to protest Mayor Mike Johnston's decision to veto a bill that would ban homeless sweeps in freezing temperatures.

About a dozen from Housekeys Action Network (HAND) people showed up amid the frigid conditions to speak out against the mayor's announcement.

Denver7 spoke with Ana-Lilith Miller, an advocate who has experienced homelessness in the past.

"I was on the streets on and off for 12 years," said Miller. "I've actually camped in -6 degree weather before. This is exactly the kind of weather that we want them to stop sweeping people in."

City Council Ordinance 23-1960, introduced in December, aimed to revise the municipal code to prevent multiple city agencies from removing homeless encampments when temperatures of 32 degrees and colder are in the forecast.

Proponents of the bill said it would keep people experiencing homelessness safer, as they say cold-weather sweeps pose health concerns to people being forced outside. Opponents say it would leave more people on the streets in unsafe conditions.

It passed by a 7-6 margin earlier this week. However, Johnston vetoed the ordinance on Friday, saying the bill would prevent the city from doing its work to move people indoors.

Group protests Denver mayor’s veto of bill preventing homeless sweeps in freezing weather

Johnston's administration said it does not intend to sweep encampments in freezing cold weather without shelter available with the exception of "major public health and safety risks."

HAND argues that the freezing band would not prevent the city from doing its job.

"I feel like we need to remind people in this city that like, people die in this weather," added Miller, "You're taking their survival gear."

There is still a chance the council can override the mayoral veto. The bill will next be addressed at the council’s Feb. 12 meeting.

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