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'They sweep, we move back': A homeless woman in Denver moved 5 times in 3 months

The policy to move people living on the streets has spread out camps from a central core into neighborhoods unaccustomed to the tents and the people living in them.

Chris Vanderveen

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Carrie Gladue, 44, is a mother of three. Born and raised in Denver, she spent much of 2021 sleeping in a tent and walking to and from Denver Health’s methadone clinic.

She struggles with the summer heat and winter chill and said she detests people who hurl trash and insults her way. When offered housing help, she declines.

“I don’t want to be put under a microscope,” she said. Next year will be her fifth year living on the streets.

Gladue has never met the city’s mayor and, to be honest, wouldn’t really know what to say to him if she did run into him.

But few people have had more power over her life than Mayor Michael Hancock. His policy of forced removal from what he calls unsanctioned encampments has forced Gladue into even more of a vagabond lifestyle.

In the three months we followed Gladue, she moved five times.

She might not consider herself a symbol of the city’s ongoing and oftentimes futile efforts to rid itself of impromptu camps. But if the city and its mayor are going to have sustained success with those efforts, they have to persuade people like Gladue to take a chance on city services.

As of now, she said she's not ready to give in.

“We get about three weeks out of every place, most of the time,” she said. “That’s how we play the game.”

It’s a game being played inside an ever-expanding arena, a 9Wants to Know investigation found.