DENVER (CBS4) – Homeless camps in Denver’s Curtis Park neighborhood have been raising concerns among neighbors. Matina Soutous, a resident for more than 10 years, is one of those who is increasingly worried.
“Every time I looked there was one camp and then there was two camps and three camps,” she said.
Eventually she says the camps became more than eyesore, they became a health concern.
“We were like looking at needles on the ground in the parkways in the parks,” Soutsos said.
She reached out to the city for help keeping the area clean, when she didn’t hear back she took matters into her own hands.
“We just decided ‘Well let’s go get some plastic bags and see what we can do.’ We gave each one two bags and I said ‘Clean up your camp,'” and they did, she said.
She even went as far as picking up those trash bags and placing them in her own vehicle.
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock says he is aware of the issues surrounding the Curtis Park camps and assures they are not being ignored.
“We must follow progressive steps and acknowledge that we have to go through certain steps to again verbally warn, provide written warning and then ultimately move in to expedite getting people into the shelter or moving from this area,” Hancock said.
Those steps, the Mayor says, can take time and in some cases those secondary issues can build up.
“It could seem like we are under siege in terms of the trash and the threats that might exist in terms of exposed needles in the area,” he said. “Feeling like we are not responsive is not okay. I don’t want any resident out there thinking we are not trying to address these issues. There is not a higher priority right now,” the mayor said.
Soutous says in her case she felt she had a choice: do nothing or do something.
“I want to keep my streets clean, I want to keep my neighborhood clean,” she said.
Not all neighbors agree with Soutous’ approach and say they are putting their attention toward finding a long-term solution.
The city cleaned up the camps in Curtis Park Friday morning — that includes across from the area school.
The city says with the formation of a new Department of Housing and Homelessness, the city will undertake development of a new comprehensive strategic plan to address homelessness, which will explore new innovations and build on Denver’s current and past successes. The plan will implement measurements to track the city’s forward progress and show the human impacts of Denver’s strategy and investments into the prevention of and solutions to homelessness.