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Immigrants return to street, day after encampment clean-up at Elitch Gardens

"Almost this entire camp was in shelter last night"
New encampment Denver
Posted at 5:37 PM, Mar 28, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-29 08:34:37-04

A large encampment that was set up near Denver's Elitch Gardens has officially been cleared out.

On Wednesday evening, the city moved the dozens of new immigrants from Central and South America who had been living there, into a shelter.

"Essentially, we had everyone basically ready to go, everybody agreed to go to the congregate site," said Jon Ewing, with Denver Human Services.

But things did not go as planned, after an altercation broke out.

Willi Bastidas, one of the unhoused residents, said it happened when he wasn't allowed in the shelter.

"We all had agreed to go peacefully," Bastidas said in Spanish, but he claims when he arrived, the staff told him he wouldn't be able to stay.

Ewing said Bastidas was denied entry due to having a history of being "aggressive" with shelter staff and is no longer allowed in any of the city's newcomer shelters, "And because of that some of the other folks said, 'we're gonna go with him.'"

The majority of them decided to leave with Bastidas and set up a new encampment in Southwest Denver.

New encampment in Denver
A day after a large encampment clean-up near Elitch Gardens, dozens of the newcomers from Central and South America who were previously living there set up a new camp in Southwest Denver.

On Thursday, Denver7 was there as the situation escalated once again.

At least four Denver Police patrol vehicles and other city officials arrived at the new encampment, to let them know they weren't allowed to stay and ask them to go back to shelter.

Amy Beck, a homeless advocate, also arrived on the scene and said she didn't agree with the approach.

"The city could actually deescalate the situation right now," said Beck, "Rather than enforcement, we need to actually just have a conversation with them."

New encampment 2.jpg
Denver Police and city officials arrive and block off the street near encampment on Thursday afternoon, trying to convince people to go back to shelter.

"Because now they're telling them that they have to move from here," Beck added, "But they are on public property. And they require 7-day posted notice."

Ewing said it was all an advisement to let people know they weren't allowed to camp there.

"They haven't been given a warning, no tickets, no, nothing like that. It's a very soft touch. All we're doing here is trying to advise them. And we're trying to remind them that there is a site for them to go to," he said.

Even though the city said the newcomers were only given written warnings, some of the folks tell Denver7 they were threatened with more than that and decided to leave the new spot.

As of Thursday afternoon, some, but not all said they decided to return to the shelter.

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