Denver, CO

Homeless displaced with rocks

David Heitz

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Rocks are replacing grass and sidewalks all over Denver, two residents told the City Council Monday, and it’s clear it’s meant to displace the homeless.

David Hagan told the council he has peppered laborers with questions as they lay the rocks. The workers have told him the projects are being paid for mostly with city funds.

Nobody from the city responded to Hagan’s allegations Monday. The council does not respond during public comment time at council meetings to maximize the number of residents heard.

“It keeps people from resting there while they need rest,” Hagan said of the rocks and boulders placed around the city, especially downtown. “It’s inhumane. It looks terrible.”

He also blasted the orange plastic fences placed all over downtown. The temporary fencing is used to cordon off homeless encampments while they are being swept by city crews. “The orange fencing reminds me of a thing called redlining,” Hagan said. “It’s not in the spirit of caring for people.”

He said the rocks are not the solution to anything either. “The anti-homeless landscaping is despicable. People will end up in front yards because the downtown area now is covered with rocks.”

Hagan said the rocks are just one more way the city is “kicking the can down the road” instead of aggressively addressing homelessness by housing people.

Another resident also spoke during public comment. She blasted the city for wasting valuable taxpayers’ money on the homeless encampment sweeps. She said the sweeps cost about $21,000 each and there already have been 49 in the first six months of 2021. That’s compared to 34 in all of 2020.

“It’s really just a waste of money and a spectacle and traumatic on human lives,” she lamented. “We could really easily house everybody.”

Jesse Lashawn Parris also spoke during public comment period. He noted that Denver has thousands of vacant luxury apartments. The problem of homelessness in Denver is not a lack of housing, he said, but greed.

“You sweep trash, you don’t sweep people,” he said. “We’re not doing better, we’re doing worse. Putting rocks and boulders where people originally were camping is not the answer.”

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I have been in the news business more than 30 years, spending much of my career at some of the best newspapers in the country. Today, I specialize in Denver local news, health reporting, social justice issues, addiction/recovery/mental health news, and topics surrounding homelessness and human trafficking.

Denver, CO
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