Johnston reveals plans for first encampment cleanup of his administration

DENVER (KDVR) — Denver Mayor Mike Johnston’s plan to decrease homelessness continues to progress in the city. The mayor announced Wednesday, the first encampment cleanup of his administration will happen later this week. Not everyone thinks this is good news.

Most agree, getting people off the streets is a good thing but there are some concerns about where people will go next.

“We did approve the first cleanup of my administration this week, it is in process. We have changed the way that the city goes about how we engage in that so let me say a little about that,” Johnston said at his press conference Wednesday morning.

Johnston said the clearing of encampments in Denver will look different under his leadership.

“The first thing is we have started what we will be doing is seven-day notice postings at all these locations. We have focused really on places where we have significant public health risk. This is a place where we had a significant rat infestation in the encampments, we were very worried about the health and safety of the folks that were in that encampment as well as the surrounding neighborhood. That was why we greenlighted it for a cleanup,” Johnston said.

People living in this encampment confirmed they received notices from the city and have been visited by outreach teams, an effort the city and its Department of Housing Stability (HOST) is making to connect people with resources that can help them.

The seven-day notice was something advocacy groups tried to get Denver to do in the past but was overturned by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. The city will also implement a later start time to enforce encampment enclosures of no earlier than 7 a.m. There is one big issue for people living there the city knows about.

“We will not have direct units to place these people into. That is the reason we’ve launched the project we are launching. The solution to this challenge is having units to move people into so when we do close encampments we can move those people in units. We do not have those available right now. We are still making the choice to clean this encampment because of the safety and public health risk,” Johnston said.

Community members advocating for people in this area like Housekeys Action Network Denver expressed their skepticism about this approach working for the unhoused. The group partially said in a press release: “On Friday these roughly 50-70 people will be yet again swept from this block (a block which has been swept at least 200 times in the last 4 years) to another block with no housing. They will likely lose property in the process. They will have to find a new spot and get ready to go through this all again. This is not the way to protect our community, much less end houselessness.” 

Johnston said the city is trying to sure up housing as fast as possible.

“There are still a whole set of options available that we can offer people. They are obviously, the existing set of options. There are shelter options, congregate, care options, there are other places they can get access to services, including a solution center, or aid center, or mental health support, or addiction treatment. So we will give them the whole range of currently existing offers. We will also talk to them directly about this project and the plan we are doing to bring on housing units,” Johnston said.

Johnston said he will visit the site where this is set to take place on Thursday ahead of the actual cleanup on Friday.

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