DENVER (CBS4)– Denver Mayor Michael Hancock has sent a letter to city council members who want city-sanctioned campsites for the homeless. The mayor wants the council members to identify potential sites in their districts for the temporary camps.
The letter comes as police investigate an attack on a woman near one of the many unsanctioned camps in the city.
The woman, who asked us not to use her name, lives across the street from Morey Middle School where more than 100 people have set up tents, “I come into my apartment building, which usually feels safe.”
That sense of safety, she says, is now shattered after she says a man tried to rape and kill her as she entered her apartment building.
“He grabbed my arm, he told me what he would like to do to me… rape and murder.”
She says she fought back and he ran, but the danger she says remains. Camps like the one near her home, she says, attract criminals.
“I do think there is a sense right now in this neighborhood of lawlessness… and it gives people permission, in a way. I don’t know if he’s a member of this camp or not.”
The camp is one of nearly a dozen that have popped up around Denver since the coronavirus crisis began. The Mayor’s office has tried repeatedly to close the one near the middle school and move people to shelters. But it says a group of anarchists, many of whom aren’t homeless and aren’t even from Denver, are blocking city workers and trying to bait law enforcement into conflict. The Mayor’s office says the protesters are trying to turn the camps into so-called “Autonomous Zones” where laws don’t apply.
Britta Fisher, Denver’s Chief Housing Officer, says most of those living in the camps don’t want to be there, “When I talk to people experiencing homelessness, what I hear from them is that they want housing.”
She says the city has housing for many of them. It’s spent over $24 million since March to open up more than 1,500 new beds.
Bob McDonald, Denver’s Public Health Director, says the protestors show up every time workers try to move people into housing.
“Hopefully the protesting will stop and people understand that we’re trying to do good work here and trying to connect people with services. These types of protests that we’re seeing, they don’t serve anyone.”
The woman who was attacked near Morey Middle School, fortunately, wasn’t seriously injured, but she has a message for those who are protesting the camp’s dismantling, “There are a million ways help the homeless rather than allow an encampment that is creating danger. Imagine if I were a kid. This needs to go away. It needs to stop.”
Denver City Councilman Chris Hinds represents the district. He hosted a Zoom town hall Wednesday night to help educate residents and solicit ideas for sites where the city can establish a temporary sanctioned campsite.
A recent survey by the city found more than a third of the newly homeless in Denver have moved into the city from somewhere else.