DENVER (CBS4) – Residents in the Capitol Hill neighborhood say a homeless camp surrounding Morey Middle School has invited criminal activity and left them feeling unsafe outside their own homes. They want to see the city address the issue with a long-term solution that helps those living in the camp and does not force them to move their setup to another part of Denver.
“The last year I think it’s gotten worse,” said Brendan McCormick, a Capitol Hill resident. “We’ve seen the criminal activity rise in the area.”
McCormick says he has lived in Capitol Hill for more than five years and something changed in 2019. But since the COVID-19 pandemic, the last two or three months have especially impacted the homeless community and what he sees from his front door. He says the latest homeless camp by the middle school showed up four weeks ago and got even more concerning in the last two weeks.
“The garbage and there is nowhere for these people to use the bathroom,” he told CBS4 on Monday. “What’s the plan because school is going to reopen here and the school is completely surrounded by this encampment.”
The City and County of Denver told CBS4 it’s aware of the encampment by the school and others like it. City leaders acknowledged it is unsafe, unhealthy, and unclean but advised residents to call 311 if they had complaints about the conditions and 911 if they felt unsafe or saw criminal activity. The Department of Transportation and Infrastructure regularly picks up trash by these camps, according to city staff.
“What does the city plan to do to allow the school to open and to move the people and give them a place to go,” McCormick added. “Many of them are forced here by the systemic issues that we deal with in society. And they’re good people.”
He worries that in the current setup, residents in the camp do not have access to running water, bathrooms, or showers. He says he has had positive interactions with some of the people in the tents and wants to see them get access to services they need. He believes closing down the camp will just push them to setup at another location in the city.
Another Capitol Hill resident shared video from his doorbell camera of a woman entering his home while he stepped outside. Minutes later, he shows up and tries to get her to leave. He calls the police and told CBS4 he saw her use his sink and drink out of his liquor supply. This a concern for families who want to spend time outside their home and at the campus.
“I think that’s the scarier thing for residents in this immediate area,” McCormick said. “We have a son who lives with us and we don’t feel comfortable walking down the street now or taking him across the street to play in the school playground.”
A judge ruled in December that Denver’s urban camping ban was unconstitutional, calling it cruel and unusual punishment.
CBS4 reached out to homeless advocacy groups to see if they were involved in working with residents in this particular camp. The group identified with trying to help the camp by the school did not get back to CBS4 by its deadline.
“We want the best for all parties involved here, the residents as well as the homeless residents who are living among us,” McCormick said.