Denver won’t confiscate blankets from homeless
Denver police will no longer confiscate blankets and tents from homeless people during cold weather months as part of a change to the city’s camping ban.
Mayor Michael Hancock announced the decision Saturday as frigid overnight temperatures continued to raise concerns about the well-being of the city’s homeless population, estimated at more than 3,700.
“As a city, we have a responsibility and moral obligation to protect the lives of our residents,” Hancock said in a statement. “Urban camping — especially during cold, wet weather — is dangerous and we don’t want to see any lives lost on the streets when there are safe, warm places available for people to sleep at night.”
The shift came after civil rights organizations and attorneys demanded Friday that the city stop seizing the property of homeless people and threatened a federal lawsuit.
Even with the change, the city intends to continue enforcing the camping ban, a violation of which carries a potential penalty of a $999 fine. But police will not confiscate camping equipment through the end of April, according to the mayor’s announcement.
Denver Homeless Out Loud, an organization fighting the city’s camping ban, called the mayor’s decision “a big win.”
“This means that people surviving on the streets this winter will have just that much more hope to live through this winter,” the organization wrote in a statement posted on its website.
Days earlier, more than a dozen homeless people and advocates implored City Council members to stop the efforts to clear encampments in the city.
Police officers issued nine citations for violations of the unauthorized camping ordinance to seven people in the past two weeks, according to the mayor’s office. Of those cited, police only confiscated camping equipment from three people who camped outside the City and County Building as part of a Nov. 28 protest against the city’s ordinance.
The property was seized as evidence, but Denver officials say they will return the belongings.