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Fencing put up as deterrent to homeless camps also blocks city sidewalk

Both Denver mayoral candidates criticized this current approach.

DENVER — Denver's Uptown is down one sidewalk after the city put up fencing around 22nd Street and Court Place after clearing out a homeless camp.

The fencing has gone up before in the immediate aftermath of a homeless sweep, but this time it stayed.

"Yes we would love that area back, but we’re in challenging times," said Jeff Dorrell, who usually walks his dog Lucy Lou in that area.

Zainab Khan lives a block from the closed sidewalks and said she's used to a detour either way.

"You're kind of walking on the road whether there’s a fence or a big group of people, you just end up on the road," she said.

It wasn't the first time the City of Denver has cleared the camp, but in the past, the fence came down after a few days.

"It seems like when they take the fence down, people kind of move back in, and then it’s the same cycle over and over," Khan said. "I don’t really know what the solution is, but it seems like this is kind of the temporary blocker." 

The cycle is nothing knew, but keeping the fence in place is. The sidewalk abuts a vacant lot that neighbors have said makes the area more accessible for people to set up camp.

In an email, Nancy Kuhn, a spokesperson for Denver's Department of Transportation and Infrastructure said that "repeat encampments at that location were having a significant impact on that specific parcel and the neighboring apartments, and the fence is remaining up to help prevent that issue while the city works to address cleanliness in that location and surrounding area."

"You know it does create a challenge, but the other way creates a challenge too," Dorrell said. "When the tents were here – and I feel for the people – we couldn’t use the sidewalk then, either."

It's a challenge that neighbors said they hope the new person in charge can fix. Both of Denver's mayoral candidates responded with a written statement about the fence.

“This is a prime example of why the current policies are not working," said mayoral candidate Mike Johnston. "That’s why I will take a housing-first approach to our city’s homelessness crisis, so unhoused Denverites can get into safe, stable housing, and our public parks and sidewalks can become open and accessible for everyone.”

Mayoral candidate Kelly Brough said she would focus on prevention and wrote, "Fencing to deter camping is not a compassionate, long-term solution and it doesn't work for the residents in that neighborhood. I would set up safe outdoor sites throughout the city, so we would have safer locations for people to go to and we don’t have to use fencing like this."

The city said it will continue to do cleanup work in the Uptown area for at least four weeks, and the fence will stay up during that time.

More 9NEWS stories by Katie Eastman:



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