DENVER (CBS4) – Exhausted from dealing with a homeless encampment adjacent to his Capitol Hill home last summer, Brendan McCormick says he and his wife put their Denver townhome on the market to sell last August. They found potential buyers spooked by homeless encampments in his neighborhood.
McCormick said after a half dozen showings, buyers generally liked his home, but “were worried about homelessness in the city,” he said. “We were told directly, you have a lovely home, but we are concerned about what’s going on in the City of Denver right now.”
McCormick said he took his home off the market and has decided to stay. Like many other property owners in central Denver, he is weary of navigating homeless encampments in his neighborhood and has lost his patience and compassion has worn thin. While he says some politicians have listened to his complaints, not much has changed.
“I have fear that we are at that point where we are going to see vigilante justice possibly and that’s not where anyone wants to see this city be.”
The issue is keeping politicians and city departments busy. In June, Denver’s 311 line has logged an average of 116 calls or emails per day about homeless encampments. Spokesperson Jenny Schiavone told CBS4 since the start of the year, the 311 center received 7,305 complaints or inquiries about homelessness and encampments.
“Encampment inquiries are generally not in our top five call drivers,” she said.
Schiavone said questions about solid waste are consistently the top inquiry driver, followed by questions related to the DMV.
For District 10 City Councilman Chris Hinds, it’s a different story as he said complaints and concerns about homeless encampments are “the number one issue we get in my office. People are weary of the continued encampments in our city and in District 10. There’s a feeling of helplessness,” said Hinds.
He said his constituents are impatient, feeling little is being done.
“The current approach isn’t working,” he observed. “We’re telling them to move along and they move a block. It’s like whack-a-mole.”
He said he feels he and other councilmembers have been as responsive as possible and the mayor’s office is doing what it can. He said the problem was decades in the making and will not be solved quickly.
Throughout Capitol Hill, property owners have erected snow fences and constructed other barriers on easements in front of their homes to prevent the homeless from setting up tents.
“It’s really frustrating,” said Jerry Sochor as he pounded stakes into the ground Wednesday morning in an attempt to cordon off a strip of land in front of a Capitol Hill apartment building.
He said what he was doing was “the only recourse we have as homeowners.”
Sochor said dozens of homeless set up tents in front of the apartment building at 12th and Downing for 37 days, destroying sprinklers and grass before they moved on.
“It’s not humane for the homeless, but it’s not fair for the residents and the homeowners. But with the (MLB) All-Star Game coming, I think we’re going to see more of this being pushed out into residential areas with no solution,” he said.
At the intersection of 6th Avenue and and Grant Street, another encampment has recently sprung up. It’s where a CBS4 crew found Misty Leopard, 43, who said she has been homeless for five years, living in these encampments.
“They tell you to get a job, but try getting a job without having a place to shower or without having an address to give to an employer.”
She said it was virtually impossible to save up enough for an apartment and said she had about $1.50 to her name.
“It’s hard. It’s really hard,” she observed. “We are human.” She said she would just like to live somewhere safe.
She said while some property owners are unkind, others, she said, are understanding.
“Most of them realize they are only one paycheck away from being my neighbor. That’s all it takes is one paycheck.”
“My concern is that we are at a boiling point,” said McCormick.
Earlier on Wednesday, Mayor Michael Hancock announced more permanent housing as a solution for the homeless problems.