Campers near Xcel substation in Five Points warned they could face trespassing charges

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The patch between California Street and the sidewalk where people living in homelessness have been asked to move due to upcoming work by Xcel Energy. Five Points, Sept. 18, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Denver police officers contacted several people who have been camping near an Xcel Energy substation opposite Five Points' Sonny Lawson Park, warning them they could face trespassing charges if they are there Thursday.

"We did have officers out there today just as a courtesy advising people that some construction is going to start tomorrow," Denver Police Department spokesperson Doug Schepman said Wednesday.

Schepman said people who don't move could be cited for trespassing.

"That's what we're trying to avoid," he said, saying police would likely return Thursday when construction was to begin.

Schepman said the warnings were not made under the city's ban on urban camping, which largely affects people experiencing homelessness, but because the property owner was closing off part of the sidewalk for construction.

A city notice posted at the site at 2359 California Street referred to the construction of an 18-foot wall around the substation "for security."

But Michelle Aguayo, an Xcel spokeswoman, said the construction involved work to improve service.

"As part of this project, Xcel Energy is installing a construction fence around the substation, which includes the additional land that the company acquired in 2009," Aguayo said in an email. "The installation of the fence is for the safety of the public and for our crews."

In a statement Wednesday, the advocacy group Denver Homeless Out Loud noted that a settlement in a suit challenging homelessness encampment cleanups requires the city to give a week's written notice before large-scale clearances. The settlement is expected to be finalized in a court hearing on Monday.

"People are on the streets now with nowhere to go, scared of what the city is doing to them," Denver Homeless Out Loud said. "This inhumanity must end."

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