Dear Governor Polis,
We have an emergency situation in Denver. People experiencing homelessness are camped near downtown Denver in part because they feel it is safer than living in a shelter with hundreds of others. For months, Mayor Hancock has refused to provide them with bathrooms or hand-washing facilities. This week, Denver Homeless Out Loud and Mutual Aid Denver came up with funding and placed four portable toilets and hand-washing stations near these encampments. On Wednesday, April 22nd, 2020, this same area was posted for a sizeable multi-block Sweep to take place on Thursday, April 30th, 2020. The Sweep could affect as many as 300 people.
The CDC guidance clearly states the following, “Unless individual housing units are available, do not clear encampments during community spread of COVID-19. Clearing encampments can cause people to disperse throughout the community and break connections with service providers. This action increases the potential for infectious disease spread.” (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/homeless-shelters/unsheltered-homelessness.html ) The planned Sweep directly violates CDC guidance to cities, and it will separate these neighbors from the toilets and hand-washing stations, which provide a minimum amount of safety for them.
We have heard nothing about the City providing an apartment or hotel/motel room to each of the people affected by the Sweep. According to CDC guidance, providing rooms must be done for our neighbors living on our streets so they, too, can shelter at home. Please use your influence or emergency regulatory authority to prevent this Sweep and any others in Denver or across the State until the pandemic is over unless individual housing – hotel/motel/apartments – is provided to the people surviving on the street before the Sweep. You must issue an Executive Order from the Governor’s Office prohibiting Sweeps until this pandemic is declared over.
Thank you for acting to stop the imminent Sweep in Denver and those of other homeless encampments across Colorado.
You may contact Terese Howard, DHOL, at (415) 517-5603 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dear Council Members,
The City is planning a sweep of all the encampments from 20th to 23rd, from Welton to Curtis, where approximately 300 people without housing live. On March 24th, the Mayor’s office replied to an email stating it was “correct that the city would not be displacing people or their property during this State of emergency.” We are still in a state of emergency with a pandemic spreading across our City. It appears the Mayor’s office lied straight out.
When the government lies like this, how are people on the streets supposed to trust their leaders?
The scheduled Sweep is for April 30th. The stay-at-home order has just been extended to May 8th. How are people living in tents at these encampments supposed to “stay at home” when the closest thing they have to a home, their tent, is being evicted from public space with nowhere to go?
The CDC guidance clearly states the following, ‘Unless individual housing units are available, do not clear encampments during community spread of COVID-19. Clearing encampments can cause people to disperse throughout the community and break connections with service providers. This increases the potential for infectious disease Spread.” (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/homeless-Shelters/unsheltered-homelessness.html)
So our question is this: Where are the individual housing units available for the 300 people living at these encampments?
As of yesterday, the Sweep area has 95 tents with between 1 and 5 people staying in each tent. This means there are about 300 people currently living in this area. To follow CDC guidance, stay-at-home orders, and care about human beings, we must provide private housing (i.e., vacant apartments or hotel rooms) to every person in these encampments. Either find housing accommodations for all 300 people or call off the Sweep.
To make housing available for those in the affected area, we need to get on the ball right away. We must identify the units, ensure the appropriateness of each person’s particular needs, and help transport their property to their new house.
In case you did not see our recent quick survey of 64 people who are homeless, found that 87% would choose a hotel room as a first option. Tent camping was the second-best option, and shelter was last. Residents of these encampments want housing!
Please help us ensure no Sweep occurs unless and until appropriate individual housing is available for all 300 people at these encampments. Contact the Mayor’s office and ask where the 300 housing units are for these residents.
Inform the Mayor’s office you do not support a Sweep of these residents unless the can offer real housing for all. If there are not 300 housing units ready for folks to move in, the Mayor must call off the Sweep immediately.