The Bum's Rush

City Hall's plan for dealing with the homeless is very short term.

Now spring has sprung, which means the birds are singing, the flowers are blooming, and the city's about to do a clean sweep of the homeless from its front porch.

Following much the same procedure used several years ago, when homeless people living along Cherry Creek and the Platte were evicted, the city is about to post its notices. "Outreach workers will work with people sleeping at the City and County Building to inform them about the enforcement schedule and help them make alternative plans," the Department of Human Services memo continues. "They will also make referrals to supportive services. Motel vouchers will be available, on a short-term basis, for individuals who cannot use shelters."

That's a lot of them, more than there are motel vouchers for, according to Parvensky. The city would have done better to address the issue rather than come up with a solution that its own memo admits is only short-term, he says. Some of the homeless are parts of couples who do not want to split up for single-sex shelters; some cannot pass the sobriety tests required; some are mentally ill; some simply don't want to go inside. And those who do often can't snag one of the 1,176 individual shelter spots. "Most of the shelters are filled to capacity," Parvensky says.

"Every month," Parvensky wrote Webb again, "we see lower cost apartments being converted to condominiums. Boarding homes are being closed. Apartment owners are increasing their rents beyond the reach of those who are disabled and poor. The existing shelters are not adequate to meet the needs of homeless persons in Denver...This is not just the Coalition's problem. This is a community-wide problem."

And so the homeless landed right on the city's doorstep.

"It's not a proper spot for them to be," says Councilman Ed Thomas, who ran afoul of Parvensky during the Cherry Creek sweep, when his coalition tried to get a temporary restraining order to stop the evictions. When Thomas got involved in the discussions this March, he was rewarded with a "compliments of Ed Thomas" sign placed on the portable toilet that temporarily graced a spot near the City and County Building. "This is an inappropriate place for them to be," he repeats. "They need to be inside."

As for that, at least, the city does have a solution. The eviction notice that is supposed to be posted -- any day now, really! -- alerts citizens that "sleeping on City owned property violates City Ordinance RMC 38-115, regarding trespassing. Please vacate these areas by May 2, 2000. After that date, City agencies will remove any persons trespassing. Any persons found sleeping around any City and County building will be subject to arrest."

And the Denver jail, with those tidy little bunks, is just a convenient block away.

Throw the bums out.

But which ones?

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