MAYOR PAYS FOR SWEEPS WITH DONATION FUNDS
It has become apparent that in the city of Denver during the last few years, there has been an increase of people who are homeless. With more than 10,000 individuals displaced—an all-time high—recent allegations of misuse of homeless donation funds have surfaced against the city of Denver.
These claims arose after a recent investigation conducted by CBS4 Denver found that nearly $60,000 was misused to conduct homeless sweeps around the city. These sweeps were contracted through Custom Environmental Services Inc., a private contractor hired by the city of Denver, responsible for collecting the personal items of homeless people.
The homeless sweeps come on behalf of the city of Denver Mayor Michael Hancock’s recent instatement of a city-wide camping ban, which targets those individuals who are homeless, making it illegal for people to excessively loiter in a particular area of the city. The Denver Road Home Fund gathered donations, which they initially planned to use for basic necessities such as housing and food for Denver’s homeless. However, Mayor Hancock misused the funds to endorse the dislocation of homeless individuals and all their belongings.
Several members within the community were dissatisfied at the approach taken, especially because these funds were supposed to help homeless individuals get back on their feet. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Colorado were among the disgruntled, and formulaically distributed a letter voicing their concern to Denver City officials.
“We are disturbed by the City’s inexcusable use of a fund that contained private donations intended to provide aid and services to the homeless to instead subject unhoused persons to sweeps, harassment, and seizure of their personal possessions,” the ACLU said, in an open letter to Mayor Hancock’s office.
The ACLU isn’t new to voicing their concerns regarding social injustices. They have also expressed concern around topics such as ending the death penalty, ending immigration detainments, and—most importantly—putting a stop to the “criminalization of homelessness.” They believe that being homeless is a difficult experience in itself, and that adding citations, tickets, arrests, and displacements will only make situations worse for homeless people.
“[We] affirm the rights and civil liberties of all persons,” the ACLU said, “including people who are impacted by homelessness and poverty, and it is time for the city of Denver to do so as well.”
Not everyone is on the same page regarding the questionable uses of the money collected. In an effort to reach out to the mayor’s office, they released the comment that, “our initial decision was to charge them to the Homeless Donation fund because the work related to homelessness. The city has put further controls into place on this account to separate out the donations from the federal reimbursement funds so that they are differentiated in their use moving forward.”
The issue of homelessness continues to be a hot topic within the city of Denver, but with the rise in population, and the risk of violating human rights is an issue that needs an immediate solution.