Report: Denver didn’t notify service providers and council members ahead of homeless sweeps

(Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

staff photo

On several days each year, groups of police officers work their way down Cherry Creek and the South Platte River, giving out citations to groups of largely homeless people who have camped out in public spaces.

Police arrest three individuals on the Cherry Creek Trail. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)  police; cherry creek trail; denver; kevinjbeaty; colorado; denverite; crime;

Police arrest three individuals on the Cherry Creek Trail. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Most of the news media calls this a “sweep,” but apparently each one has a name. Early in the summer, it was Operation Night Crawler and Operation River Dance, Westword reports.

Public records showed that Mayor Michael Hancock’s administration ordered the operations “unilaterally, without first consulting the majority of Denver’s homeless-service providers, the mayor’s own Commission on Homelessness, or most members of the Denver City Council — leaving many to wonder why they were left in the dark about such a significant operation,” as reporter Chris Walker writes.

Two council members tell Walker they’re not happy about a lack of notice for the sweep, while some service providers and activities said they were concerned that people’s belongings had been destroyed, and that breaking up camps makes it harder to build stable relationships with people who are living outside.

Here’s the mayor’s office’s comment in response to the story, as Westword reported:

“There are complex issues involved with the encampments of people living outdoors in our city. This includes health and safety risks for those encamped there and also for those who live and work in the area. There are also serious public-health concerns, including infestations, drug use and other illegal activity.

“Through our efforts to address these encampments, our No. 1 priority is helping the people we come in contact with to find the individualized assistance they need.

“Every encampment is different, and the needs of every person are unique, but our approach to connect people and help them to stabilize their lives has been consistent.

“We have safe spaces during the day, we have beds open at night, we have services at the ready, and we will remain focused on helping our people.”