Denver to sweep large homeless encampment, offer residents hotel rooms

The city of Denver plans to clear a large homeless encampment in Capitol Hill next week and offer the people living there the chance to move to a hotel.

City officials say the sweep at East Eight Avenue and Logan Street will be the first public step toward meeting Mayor Mike Johnston’s goal of moving 1,000 people living on the city’s streets into temporary or permanent accommodations before the end of the year.

Seventy people are living in rows of tents and other makeshift shelters clustered across from the Colorado governor’s mansion, city spokesman Derek Woodbury said.

Starting Monday, city outreach workers will begin efforts to move those people indoors. A seven-day notice posted this week for the clearing of the camp allows that activity to begin Tuesday.

“We’re working to match as many of the residents as possible with housing and shelter, including offering them indoor placement at a non-congregate shelter at an undisclosed hotel,” Woodbury said Thursday from the city’s emergency operations center. The new mayor activated the center to address homelessness.

Johnston has been reluctant to authorize sweeps — or cleanups — of homelessness encampments since taking office in July. Early in his tenure, he said he would approve them only in instances where public health, safety or right-of-way access were affected by a camp.

He often has characterized sweeps as ineffective, serving only to move people from one block to another and disrupting efforts by outreach workers and advocates to connect people with housing or other services.

As for the Eighth and Logan encampment, it meets some criteria for a sweep, Woodbury said, and the city has the ability to offer people living there somewhere else to go beyond another sidewalk or alley.

“(This is) necessary due to deteriorating conditions including trash, human waste and discarded needles as well as encumbrances blocking the right-of-way,” Woodbury said.

He added that because of the shelter and housing resources being offered, next week’s sweep will be “remarkably different” compared to how the process has worked in the past.

The camp has received a lot of attention from city staff in recent weeks. It was one of the first camps to receive city trash pickup service as part of efforts to improve conditions on while the Johnston administration races to secure enough shelter for his 1,000-person goal. The strategy includes the standing up of several homeless micro-communities across the city.

“Our outreach teams have been at the encampment daily to offer housing-focused services and also behavioral health, substance misuse, harm reduction and emergency medical services,” Woodbury said. “Following the cleanup, we will be working closely with neighborhood stakeholders to prevent the return of unauthorized camping to this area.”

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