Denver mayor candidate Kelly Brough says she’ll end homeless encampment sweeps

But a major business community supporter of hers says “there’s no way that’s the policy.”

Mayoral candidate Kelly Brough holds a press conference on her public safety plan in front of the Lindsey-Flanigan Courthouse on Colfax Avenue. Jan. 11, 2023.

Mayoral candidate Kelly Brough holds a press conference on her public safety plan in front of the Lindsey-Flanigan Courthouse on Colfax Avenue. Jan. 11, 2023.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
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Denver mayoral candidate Kelly Brough told 9News last night that she would end the homeless sweeps if elected.

She announced her plan for public safety yesterday, and in a follow up interview with 9News she was asked about whether as mayor she would sweep homeless people off the streets when it’s cold out.

Brough said it wasn’t safe for people to be without shelter on cold days, but then took a broader view.

“We all know sweeps don’t work, moving a tent across a border, pretending we solved someone’s problem, it doesn’t work. We need to house and shelter people,” Brough said. 9News reached out to Brough’s campaign to clarify whether she wanted to end the sweeps:

In an interview with Denverite, Brough said nuance was missing from 9News’ report of her stance.

“What we’re doing today is absolutely not working for anybody,” Brough said. “I also believe camping is inhumane. We can’t do it … And sweeping doesn’t work. It doesn’t solve anybody’s problem. It’s just moving someone down a street to another neighborhood, another jurisdiction.

“I think what you do is, we tell people: ‘you can’t camp,’ and we have options though,” she continued. “We’re gonna move you to the shelter, the house … people hear, ‘if you’re not sweeping, then you’re allowing camping.’ No, I’m not.”

A sweep on Washington Street at Colfax Avenue. March 11, 2021.

A sweep on Washington Street at Colfax Avenue. March 11, 2021.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

But the business community, some of whom are Brough’s most ardent supporters, were taken aback. 

“I’m a supporter of hers. I’m a friend of hers. I haven’t talked to her today yet, but there’s no way that’s the policy,” Andrew Feinstein, the CEO of EXDO Development and a board member of Colorado Concern and the Downtown Denver Partnership said. Feinstein threw Brough a fundraiser on Dec. 1 at his home. . “She probably has a lot of sympathy for those that are unfortunately dwelling on the street, because she’s been in a situation in her own life where that could have happened.”

The sweeps “may not be the ultimate solution,” Feinstein said, giving his own opinion. “I think we have to have deterrent mechanisms in place to disincentivize people from sleeping on the streets.” It’s inhumane, and there are many city services they can access, he added.

In response to Brough’s comments to 9News, a spokesman for Mayor Michael Hancock Administration said, “Encampment cleanups are not this administration’s solution to homelessness. They’re a necessary means to address unsafe and unsanitary conditions in unsanctioned encampments,” wrote Michael Strott, Hancock’s communications director, in a statement. “The city’s policy is to intervene with services and connect people to housing and shelter.”

Homelessness is a major issue in Denver, and small tent encampments are a regular sight, especially around downtown.

There were 6,884 homeless people in the Denver metro area, according to a count in Jan. 2022 compiled by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, a rise of 20% since 2019.

Brough is the former CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, and presumably a favorite candidate for many in the business community, especially downtown.

In 2019, as CEO, Brough urged the Chamber’s board to oppose a ballot initiative called Right to Survive, or Initiative 300, which would have overturned Denver’s camping ban, and prevented sweeps of homeless encampments.

According to meeting minutes, “Brough shared that messaging is important as there needs to be a better path forward, and this is not it. Brough recommended to the Board that they officially oppose the ballot initiative” and support the Downtown Denver Partnership in leading the opposition.

The Chamber board agreed, and voted unanimously to oppose the Right to Survive initiative.

Denver voters made clear that they did not want to sanction tent encampments in the city. The Right to Survive initiative failed overwhelmingly, with 81% of Denver voters rejecting it.

This article has been updated with comments made to Denverite by Kelly Brough.

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