Street Sweeping in Denver, CO

By Giles Clasen

Courtesy of INSP.ngo /Denver Voice

Photos: Giles Clasen

Denver police and cleanup crews armed with brooms and trash bags met angry homeless men and women last month on sidewalks just north of downtown Denver. The goal of those in uniform was to clean the sidewalks.

The homeless campers feared they would lose their homes and property. This lead to a tense day with sporadic protests from the homeless and their supporters.

During the peaceful protests, the homeless cooperated with the police, loading their belongings into shopping carts to temporarily move off of the campsite. Most of the individuals present expected to be able to return to the camp after the area from Park Avenue to Broadway and Broadway to 24th Street had been cleaned.

Officer David Hunter, with the Denver Police Homeless Outreach Team, said, “Everyone wants a peaceful resolution. We want to clean up and be gone.”

Below are interviews and photos taken at the time of the November sweep. ■

 

John Gerhard, Jr. raises a sign.

John Gerhard, Jr.

I’ve been here since August 18. I stayed in a shelter the first two weeks, but I was eaten up by bed bugs. It’s also difficult to get from downtown to some of the shelters. You can wait for an hour or longer for a bus to come by with an opening for a handicapped person. Being in a chair makes it harder. It isn’t like I don’t try, but there is no place to go. I broke my back in a car accident. It isn’t easy being homeless when you’re handicapped. I know it isn’t easy for the city; it isn’t easy for anyone. I think there are some better solutions. There are abandoned lots waiting to be purchased. No construction yet. We should utilize the lots. We should make temporary campgrounds until they start construction. We work hard to make these sidewalks work. We wake up every morning and sweep the sidewalks clean. Not everyone does that, but enough of us do it to make it work. We care about it being clean. We care about Mother Earth.

 

Joshua Griffin.

Joshua Griffin

I yell at the cops. I scream at them because I am passionate. I am fighting. There is no one out there fighting for us. You see a crane over there building a building. You see new businesses opening. You see the city growing. The mayor, he is trying to build something to bring up more businesses. But they’re not building affordable housing for people like us. We aren’t part of the city’s plan. We try to work. We go to work for Ready Man or for a tip agency or day labor and we make nickels and dimes, pieces of crumbs. We can’t get out of here. We can’t get our own place. It feels like we are losing our home today. We have been out here and we will be out here. We feel like they are taking our space, our home and not treating us like human beings.

 

Shannon Wolf takes a phone call behind a sign.

Shannon Wolf

I’ve been living here since February. I went through the sweeps in the spring. My wife and I stayed away for three weeks before we moved back to these sidewalks. I stay safe by living out here with my street family. Our street family means safety, protection, and support. When they make us move we lose our family a bit and it is harder out here.

 

Image 5: Littiah Fabre

We sleep out here and live out here. This is the end of the road. We aren’t here because we want to be, we are here because we have to be. It feels like (the police) come here to make war. Not me. I’m a person of peace. I am a transsexual. I don’t think that makes it harder out here for me. It’s hard for everyone. I stay in the women’s facilities; I’m a woman. I’m sorry I don’t look good. You can’t look good homeless. All you’re doing when you move us from downtown is we move to the suburbs. We move to the parks. We move to the alleys. Then when it’s all clear we move back. If you can get four or five or ten of us off the street that’s a start. We can change this.

 

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