Neighbors, city work to curb homelessness in Chessman Park

DENVER -- Homeless people in Denver's Cheesman Park have been put on notice after the City of Denver received complaints from neighbors over harassment, rampant drug use and park curfew violations.

Police on Thursday said they are constantly dealing with a "moving target," referring to the homelessness crisis being felt throughout Denver. As the homeless are forced out of one area, they soon find another. After recent sweeps, neighbors say Cheesman Park seems to be a new hotspot. On any given day, there are small homeless encampments in the park where people sleep and cook meals.

"We don't go on [neighbors'] property," said homeless camper Aaron Walters. "We don't touch their things. We are neighbors, like it or not. We're going to have to learn to live with each other."

But many of those neighbors say that's easier said than done. They are fed up with the increase of litter, syringes, shouting and indecent exposure.

"All park users and visitors should feel safe here, and that's what we want," said Kathleen Rust, president of Cheesman Park Advocacy Group. "We should all treat each other with mutual respect."

At a community meeting Thursday night with park rangers and police officers, Rust read from dozens of email complaints. Most residents have been expressing concern and empathy. But others FOX31 spoke with say they aren't bothered by the homeless campers at all.

"Where else are they going to live," asked neighbor Chad Hall. "[Those complaining] should probably not be jerks about it and do something about it to change it."

Park rangers have placed a focus on Cheesman Park. On Thursday, they gave homeless people notice to obey the 11 p.m. park curfew. It's a constant battle homeless people face every day.

"If the city works on solving the homelessness problem, then you wouldn't have these problems in the parks," said Walters. "The simple fact is there's no where to go in Denver."

Police are encouraging Cheesman Park neighbors to call 911 to report illegal activity. They are also reminding neighbors it's not illegal to simply be homeless in a park.