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Report: 70% of homeless swept by Denver eventually go right back to place

Activists say city has conducted 56 sweeps in 2021
denver homeless
Posted at 5:12 PM, Jul 19, 2021

DENVER -- A new report on Denver's homeless sweeps reveals only eight people of the thousands who were moved from their tents last year found permanent housing.

The report is from the advocacy group Denver Homeless Out Loud, which also found 70% of those swept by the city eventually reported going right back to the same location from which they were removed.

The mayor's office hasn't commented yet on the report.

On one of the hottest days of the summer, Ericka McGrew is already dreading the cold.

“I’m terrified of winter coming,” McGrew said.

She’s one of thousands living on the streets of Denver, often swept from one corner to the next.

“And they say, ‘You gotta go,’” McGrew said. “And you have to go. You don’t get a chance to grab your belongings.”

In fact, the report also suggests 71% of those removed from their encampments don’t know how to get their belongings back.

“Absolutely, it’s a waste of money,” said community activist John Staughton.

The city has conducted 56 sweeps in the first six months of 2021, almost double the number of sweeps conducted all of last year.

Staughton is currently conducting an audit of all 56 sweeps in Denver during the first six months of 2021. He estimates each sweep costs the city $21,000, including overtime and hazard pay for police and Denver Human Sservices workers.

“I attended every sweep,” Staughton said. “Started at 5-5:30 in the morning, and I counted every police vehicle that was there, every DHS worker that was there, how long they were there. Every half hour – I would take tallies and we did that for six months. We did that for 56 sweeps in a row.”

Denver7 contacted the mayor’s office for comment and a spokesperson said they’d get back to us.

McGrew says the money would be better spent on permanent housing.

“I think there’s plenty of room and money somewhere to do that,” McGrew said. “My situation, if I had a home, I could get back on my feet much easier. Oh yeah, if I had a home to shower – I could absolutely work.”

Advocates say invest in housing, not more sweeps.

“It doesn’t make any sense aside from profit," Staughton said.

“My goal is to not be out here another winter,” McGrew said.