The City of Denver is preparing its next major sweep operation to clear out homeless encampments. The focus of the operation will be along Park Avenue West and Lawrence Street, near the Denver Rescue Mission, where signs have been posted advising homeless individuals to remove their belongings from the streets by Tuesday, November 15.
The sweep is likely to take place on Tuesday.
The signs are similar to those posted in the same area ahead of the March sweep, a controversial action that created further controversy when it was discovered that the city used donation funds intended to help the homeless to instead transport and store their confiscated belongings. The city used its “public encumbrance removal procedure,” which Westword discovered was specifically revised by city attorneys to use during sweep operations, to confiscate belongings, then store them for up to thirty days in a city-operated facility.
The city has defended such actions by saying it is connecting homeless individuals with services, including shelter, and that encampments pose health and safety hazards. But homeless advocates are already condemning the actions set to take place this week.
Terese Howard of Denver Homeless Out Loud tells Westword that her organization believes the sweep will be citywide, not just focused on downtown and the Ballpark neighborhood.
“Homeless people staying throughout the city have received notice for a sweep on this day,” she says.
Her organization will be working to document police actions across the city, specifically looking for violations of the Fourth Amendment's protections against unlawful searches and seizures.
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Jason Flores-Williams, the lawyer who is suing Denver in federal court over the homeless sweeps, sent out the following notice on Sunday, November 13:
The City of Denver is planning massive unconstitutional sweeps of homeless persons….These sweeps are currently the subject of a class action lawsuit in U.S. Federal Court.
The city's refusal to wait for the court to rule exhibits direct disrespect for the jurisdiction of the court and U.S. Constitutional law. Protest is planned: Anyone arrested protesting or resisting these unconstitutional sweeps will be represented by this law office for free.
Denver’s homeless sweeps have been the subject of numerous Westword investigations, which have revealed misused protocols, the use of military-operation code names such as “Night Crawler” and “River Dance,” and divisions that have been created between Mayor Michael Hancock’s administration and homeless-service providers.
Stay tuned to Westword News for full coverage of the sweep anticipated this week.