Den­ver won’t con­fis­cate blan­kets from homeless

The Denver Post - - DENVER & THE WEST - By John Frank

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.

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