By Rick Sallinger
DENVER (CBS4) – The city moved in to once again clean up homeless camps on the streets of Denver on Tuesday.
With their belongings on the sidewalk, several people who gathered shouted, “housing, not handcuffs,” as police arrived with public works clean-up crews.
Police cordoned off the area putting up yellow tape section by section at Broadway and Lawrence Street in Denver. Trash was removed and the sidewalk was cleaned. Among the items collected were a wheelchair, used syringes and mattresses.
The homeless people gathered their belongings into carts in search of somewhere else to call a temporary home.
A lawsuit filed on their behalf in federal court claims the “sweeps” are a violation of their rights.
Jason Flores-Williams is an attorney representing the homeless. He pointed at a garbage truck.
“Look at this behind me … this is where they throw people’s property. This is invaluable and priceless property,” Flores-Williams said.
Many of the items were brought to a city warehouse. But last time around few knew or perhaps didn’t care.
“We initially said we would keep items 30 days. We only saw one person come to retrieve their belongings during that time,” Julie Smith, a spokesperson for the Denver Department of Human Services told CBS4.
Smith said they extended the holding time another 30 days, but only two more arrived to look for possessions. Among the items left behind were skis and a fishing pole.
Most everyone moved out without incident. But Karen Perreira, 59, who uses a walker, decided she would stay because she says it’s her home.
“Do you prefer to be on the street?” CBS4’s Rick Sallinger asked Perreira.
“No,” she replied. “It’s not something I want because when it gets cold my arthritis affects me and there is nowhere else to go.”
The city says there are plenty of beds available in shelters and it has found housing for 1,000 people in the past two years.
“We do want to make sure we offer everything we can to the residents because eating and sleeping on the streets is not okay for any of our residents to be doing,” Smith said.
But no one doubted, even as the homeless people were being moved out, many would be back again soon. In fact, by nightfall the corner was filling up again with makeshift tents.