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Ordinance Could Put 16th Street Mall Off-Limits To Homeless Overnight

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Homeless set up camp along the 16th Street Mall in Denver. (credit: CBS)

Homeless set up camp along the 16th Street Mall in Denver. (credit: CBS)

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DENVER (CBS4)- It’s one of Denver’s most well-known tourist spots- the 16th Street Mall. Thousands descend on the mall to eat and shop, but the city said 100-200 people sleep on the mall at night, and that can be a deterrent.

Denver City Council Members are discussing a plan to keep people off the streets, benches, alleys and sidewalks overnight. Businesses aren’t the only ones complaining, the homeless have become the number one complaint of tourists.

“People are just walking over bodies, literally people begin to defecate on themselves in alleys,” said City Councilman Albus Brooks.

Brooks’ district includes the 16th Street Mall. He said what concerns him even more than that is the criminal element.

“Druggies, vagrants, gang members come into this homeless community and there is a lot of crime,” said Brooks.

In response to growing complaints, Brooks is introducing an ordinance banning the homeless from sitting, sleeping or otherwise setting up camp along the mall.

“Part of the ordinance has an attachment to it, you you don’t just arrest people or kick people out. You provide them services. You show where there is a bed,” said Brooks.

“Certainly, I along with everyone else in the homeless community who is trying to provide services, would love to see a place where those people can go every night. But the harsh reality is as a city, we don’t have that,” said Denver Rescue Mission spokesman Josh Geppelt.

Geppelt said their downtown shelter houses 300 people and they still turn people away.

“What happens is this ordinance passes, they prevent people from sleeping on the 16th Street Mall, they simply sleep somewhere else,” said Geppelt.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said what is needed is a comprehensive approach.

“We can’t arrest our way out of this. We need to find a humane, compassionate way to deal with the issue of homelessness on the mall and downtown,” said Hancock.

The city said there are 11,000 homeless in Denver, 60 percent of those are families with children. Only three other cities have similar ordinances, Boulder, Philadelphia and Santa Cruz. The ordinance in Denver could be introduced as early as next week.

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