By Joel Hillan

DENVER (CBS4)– Homeless advocates protested Wednesday night in front of Denver’s City County Building for the right to sleep on the streets and call for an end of “homeless sweeps.” That’s the practice of the city and police sweeping the streets and making people move out of makeshift tents.

“This approach to homelessness that says we can sweep it away needs to end now,” said Terese Howard, an organizer for Denver Homeless Out Loud.

Terese Howard (credit: CBS)

She is calling on Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and the City to immediately stop the now two-year-old practice of using police to clear homeless encampments on Denver’s sidewalks and parks.

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“He needs to stop treating people like trash and criminals for being homeless, for using a blanket, for using a tent, for trying to stick together with a community where you are safer,” she said.

“Something has to be done and it has to be done quickly to where people can keep their dignity and respect,” said homeless advocate Jerry Burton.

Jerry Burton (credit: CBS)

The cause is personal to him. He was homeless and among those who had their blankets confiscated two years ago this month.

“It messes with your head, it tells me that city government doesn’t care about me, whether I freeze to death or not.”

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Although Denver Mayor Michael Hancock instructed police not to take the blankets, Terese claims the practice continues.

“Even now there are police out on the streets using Public Works and other city employees to take people’s blankets and survival gear in winter.”

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They are calling on the city to stop the practice, to provide safe places for the community to sleep at night and address the core of the problem: Denver’s housing crisis.

“There is much, much more that needs to be done in this city to actually address our housing crisis which has lead folks to be homeless,” she said.

Joel Hillan anchors CBS4 This Morning on weekends as well as reports stories for CBS4 News at 5 and 6 p.m. Follow Joel on Twitter @joelhillan.