Homeless prepare to sue city of Denver over sweeps
DENVER — Gary “Sticks” Anderson still recalls the March morning when the city of Denver moved in with a sweep of homeless camps in downtown Denver.
“I lost my tent and a sleeping bag,” Anderson said. “There are some people that when that happened they lost everything they had.”
Five months later, Johnson and others are still upset about the city’s sweep — and so is attorney Jason Flores-Williams.
“We are asking for an injunction because we want the city to stop this unconstitutional policy of homeless sweeps,” Flores-Williams said.
Flores-Williams spent much of Tuesday collecting declarations for a pending lawsuit, which is expected to be filed soon. Flores–Williams said a monetary amount is expected if the judge rules in their favor.
“The lawyers in Fresno, California — which did something similar to what we are doing here — they retrieved upwards of $2 million,” Flores-Williams said.
The city of Denver said it is well within the law. Supporters of the sweeps hope the threat of a lawsuit does not stop them.
“I got a little tired of having to clean up human poop and pee on a regular basis,” said Reece Montour, an employee of Eye Candy Graphics near the Denver Rescue Mission.
Flores-Williams plans to listen to more people impacted by the sweeps at a community meeting Thursday. It is scheduled for 5 p.m. on the fifth floor at the Denver Public Library.
“The City of Denver spends more than $40 million a year on various homelessness programs,” city spokeswoman Julie Smith said in a statement. “Our focus is on connecting people who are on the streets to the individualized assistance needed to help them stabilize and move forward. That’s why more than two dozen outreach specialists work every day across the city to connect with and understand the challenges of people who are homeless and get them help.
“The city’s practice is to first try and connect people to services and treatment, and when that doesn’t work people are given ample notice, usually multiple times, before any enforcement action is taken. We are working to be compassionate in our response to this complex problem and are well within the law.”