Encampments set up by people experiencing homelessness around Denver’s Capitol Hill and the governor’s mansion appear to have grown in recent weeks, and on Thursday, Gov. Jared Polis said he would welcome their removal from state property.
At a news conference, Polis was asked about damage to the state Capitol and encampments displaying signs for Black Lives Matter and against police. He said the nuanced issue is different than criminal damage to property, but that state property in Denver is subject to the city’s rules about camping.
Polis wasn’t clear on the specifics of Denver’s policies, saying he doesn’t follow Denver politics, but that he’s urged the mayor and City Council to act for weeks.
“They are welcome to come onto our property and remove tents,” Polis said, adding that law enforcement is not only welcome but encouraged to do so.
Denver has an urban camping ban in place, but it’s still being argued in the courts. City officials believe the ban is legal, so they are continuing to enforce it through controversial “cleanups,” more commonly known as sweeps.
But with the coronavirus pandemic and recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the city has had to take additional precautions before breaking up any camp sites, said Mike Strott, spokesman for Hancock.
Strott said city officials have been in conversations with Polis and have offered to brief him on their plans, including setting up sanctioned outdoor spaces where people can go instead. The first is planned for August.
In the meantime, he said, the city is trying to connect people experiencing homelessness with services they need and access to increased shelter space or other temporary options.
Polis’s comments drew some criticism on social media from activists, including those who pointed out he did not extend a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures during an economically difficult time for many people.
Denver Post reporter Conrad Swanson contributed to this story.
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