Latest Sweeps Leave Those Without Shelter in the Cold

homeless sweep

It was below freezing this morning in downtown Denver and some were seen sleeping on the sidewalk with just one blanket when Denver Police moved in to continue with another day of sweeps.

In the Triangle Park area at Lawrence Street and Park Avenue, Denverites who live on the streets were awakened to police ordering them to pack up their things or have them thrown in the trash.  Still, some lost their belongings according to Terese Howard, an organizer with Denver Homeless Out Loud (DHOL), an advocacy group that supports people who are living without housing, “People have lost their things.  Even though police are saying that they are storing people’s things, it’s impossible for people to find their things most times because the warehouse is so big and the place is so chaotic that most people don’t get their things back.”  Howard added that the window to retrieve belongings is so narrow – 12pm to 2pm – that those who work cannot get to the warehouse facility for their things.

A truck carrying green trash bins was on the scene where some people surrendered their belongings and a trash truck was loaded with items that were unclaimed.  Some people turned over their things, some loaded their belongings onto grocery carts and wheeled them away, and others simply lost their things in the raid.

One person who said his name was “Randy” said that police broke his tent when it was kicked in as he heard police waking people who were asleep inside of tents.  One person who was videotaping was arrested.

homeless sweepAfter dozens of people were removed from Park Avenue near the Denver Rescue Mission and Samaritan House, both organizations that provide support services to those experiencing homelessness, police moved to an area of vacant land on 27th Street and Arapahoe St.  Here about ten tents were housing people.  A makeshift kitchen was erected next to one of the tents.

One person next to the kitchen refused to leave his tent.  He identified himself as a veteran and said that the country has failed him after years of service.  Police told the man that he was being referred to a nearby shelter where it was warm, but he refused the offer, “I am warm now!”  A community advocate was on scene to refer people to nearby shelters, but people in tents scoffed at the suggestion talking about negative experiences attempting to use shelters.

Some police officers seemed to offer compassion in front of cameras but others laughed or appeared aggressive.

One police officer ordered media away from the area, “No videos here.  All cameras off the area.  Move to across the street!  This is a crime scene!”  Police then surrounded the area with yellow crime scene tape.  Officer Vincent Lombardi threatened The Nation Report with arrest when recording equipment was moved from the immediate area to the hood of the press vehicle legally parked adjacent to the tents, “You are a traffic obstruction, if you don’t move, you will be under arrest.  That is a lawful order!”

More police arrived on the scene until about a dozen police vehicles surrounded the area.  A truck carrying green trash bins that had moved from the Triangle Park area to the current scene arrived along with the trash truck.  Members of DHOL helped people fold tents and gather belongings before police said that belongings would be confiscated.

Sweeps of those living on the street continue despite a lawsuit challenging constitutional rights against having belongings trashed by city employees.  Mayor Michael Hancock and Chief of Police Robert White were personally named in the original claim, but a decision is expected to come down if the two are eligible for immunity in their official capacities.  Several from their tents called out to Hancock, “Don’t you have any compassion for those on the streets?”  Others yelled obscenities to the mayor.

homeless sweep

One person (left photo) retrieved a tent that had been tossed in the trash truck.  Others loaded their possessions into grocery carts and rolled them away to a nearby corner.  As one resident was rolling away, she was asked if she knew where she would go.  She responded in tears, “I have no idea.  I’m sorry, I can’t talk right now.”


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