DENVER - City officials said the cluttered sidewalks in front of the downtown homeless shelters were too dangerous and unsanitary to remain as they were.
Homeless people were warned that they could no longer set up camp there and workers removed any items that remained back in March.
Since then, homeless advocates have brought a lawsuit against the city for confiscating personal property. Much of that homeless population dispersed to areas across the city. But recently, some homeless people and their shopping carts have returned, once again cluttering the sidewalks the city has been trying to keep clear.
“Some people can't walk or get around as well as I," Angelo Peterson said, a homeless man who had just left the Denver Rescue Mission after a shower. "So they are sort of stranded down here. They really have got nowhere else to go for services."
A shower and a meal is why many of the homeless are back in the area. In makeshift camps in front of the shelter they can take advantage of basic needs without having to conform to the rules of a shelter.
“There's a lot of rules in there you know. Sometimes people got habits too. Addictions, you know,” Peterson said.
Despite the resurgence, the city says it has not stopped its enforcement and outreach. The city says outreach workers go down several times a week to remind people they cannot stay there and, most importantly, offer crucial services.
The city sent 9NEWS a statement that reads in part:
“Even with increased outreach, people are still sleeping outside and refusing services. This cannot continue. We firmly believe people are best served indoors. Few, if any, people have ever told us that sleeping on the streets was how they began to rebuild from whatever situation resulted in their homelessness. Most importantly, we want to help these individuals and set them on a better trajectory for their futures.”
The Denver Rescue Mission says it’s been extremely busy, with about 1,000 people a day walking in for some sort of service. They’re just hoping that those choosing to stay outside change their mind when they come inside for a meal.
“Our hope is that when they do decide to come inside, even if it is just for a meal, that we can have a chance for that conversation, for that friendly gesture, and say, hey, 'we want to help you,” Alexxa Gagner with the Rescue Mission said.
The March cleanups led to controversy and criticism but the city says outreach, the most crucial part of the cleanups, does often work.
City officials say they’ve connected 225 people with housing and family reunification services. Thousands have been connected with health services and abuse treatment. The major hurdle the city faces is a lack of desire by many homeless people to accept some of those expanded services by choosing to live on the street instead of the many available shelter beds
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