Comment of the Day

Reader: City Should Spend Homeless Camp Cleanup Money on Mental Illness

Brandon Marshall

Page 2 of 2

Courtesy of Colorado Village Collaborative
"Tiny Home Village Documentary Examines Homelessness in Denver"

Chris Walker
"Why Do So Many Homeless Refuse to Stay in Overnight Shelters?"

Chris Walker
"City Dismantles Large Tent City in Ballpark Neighborhood"

Emails obtained under the Colorado Open Records Act, then posted to the open-records website MuckRock, show itemized receipts from Custom Environmental Services spanning from September 2017 to September 2018 for things like “mobilize to site to continue clean-up” and “mobilize to storage facility for homeless to claim belongings.” The storage facility is a city-owned building near the South Platte River that stores items taken during cleanups for thirty days so that owners can retrieve them.

Homeless sweeps in Denver are contentious, with naysayers arguing that displacing the homeless by taking their possessions is immoral, impractical and may run afield of protections guaranteed by the Constitution, including due process and protections against unlawful searches and seizures. Denver's large encampment cleanups are even the subject of a federal class action lawsuit that is scheduled to begin in March 2019. The judge in that case, William Martinez, has defined homeless sweeps as “'the City and County of Denver’s alleged custom or practice (written or unwritten) of sending ten or more employees or agents to clear away an encampment of multiple homeless persons by immediately seizing and discarding the property found there.'”

It is unclear how much money the city spends on using Denver Public Works employees and Denver Police officers for homeless sweeps (records custodians say they don't have that information), but the receipts detailing hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments to Custom Environmental Services offer a glimpse into the cost of dismantling homeless encampments.

What do you think about Denver's homeless sweeps? Let us know in a comment or at westword.com.
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.