DENVER (CBS4) – A federal judge approved an unusual lawsuit settlement between the city of Denver and its homeless population Monday. It spells out the rights of the homeless to be notified when city officials plan to clean up where they are staying.
The settlement comes after years of negotiations after the lawsuit was filed. Several of the city’s homeless came to the courthouse to hear the judge’s approval. Their plight was spelled out on signs outside that read, “they want me to disappear.”
“I’m not truly understanding what it’s all about but I understand that I’m homeless,” Gus Jordan told CBS4’s Rick Sallinger.
What it is all about are “sweeps” also known as cleanup actions by the city of Denver. In various instances, officials confiscated sleeping bags and tents while others were placed in storage.
The homeless went to federal court in a class action lawsuit led by Terese Howard of the group Homeless Out Loud.
“So they go to work and know the city can’t just take their property without due process,” Howard said.
The settlement calls for at least 48 hours advance notice for cleanups and a week for large scale actions. Personal items belonging to the homeless will be stored for up to 60 days and medicine will be stored until it expires. What this does address is the urban camping ban, which will continue.
Robert Merritt is one of those impacted by the settlement.
“I kind of sleep in alleys a patch of grass where they won’t hit you with a sprinkler more or less,” Merritt explained.
This was a case where the judge praised the cooperation between the parties. Jason Flores-Williams was one of the attorneys representing the homeless.
Flores-Williams said, “It was worthwhile to extend a hand to the city.”
Assistant Denver City Attorney Wendy Shea said, “We’re hoping to foster a relationship where they can trust the city more.”
Denver is expected to pay the attorneys for the homeless around $500,000 in attorney fees. Of that sum, $30,000 will go to Homeless Out Loud.