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Denver shutting down homeless encampment without shelter to offer for the first time in months

Joe Rubino, The Denver Post on

Published in News & Features

DENVER — City crews on Tuesday morning began shutting down a homeless encampment in Denver’s western Lincoln Park neighborhood due to public safety concerns including three overdose deaths and more than two dozen felony arrests there over the last few months, according to city officials.

Cleanup work at the encampment centered on the intersection of West Eighth Avenue and Navajo Street is expected to continue through at least Wednesday.

It’s the first time in roughly six months that Mayor Mike Johnston’s administration has authorized shutting down a homeless camp without having rooms in converted hotel shelters or tiny homes in micro-communities available for people living in the camp, said Cole Chandler, the mayor’s lead homelessness advisor.

The 138 people the city counted in the camp have been advised to seek open beds in the city’s traditional group homeless shelters, according to Chandler. Short of that, they face seeking new places to sleep outdoors.

“It’s not a happy thing that we have to close an encampment this way. We know the best way to address encampments is to bring people indoors to permanent and transitional housing,” Chandler said Tuesday. “This camp at Eighth and Navajo is just too big. We don’t have enough available rooms in the All In Mile High system to resolve it indoors.”


All In Mile High, formerly known as the House 1,000 initiative, is Johnston’s signature program that he announced on his second day in office in July. The program has moved 1,473 people off the street and into shelters or housing as of Tuesday, according to an online dashboard, with a goal of housing 2,000 people by the end of this year. The administration has largely relied on a network of five converted hotels to provide space for those people.

Housekeys Action Network Denver, a homeless advocacy organization, placed blame for the size of the camp on Johnston’s administration in a news release Friday. By strictly enforcing the city’s camping ban across many areas of downtown already cleared of encampments, the city has forced people to congregate in larger groups, the organization said.

“Houseless people have been coming to this camp because of constant police harassment for “camping” (aka surviving) in all other areas of the City,” the organization said in the release.


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