New rules on tap for homeless encampment cleanups
COLORADO SPRINGS ” Colorado Springs officials will vote on new rules for cleaning homeless encampments after city crews were accused of taking sleeping bags, prescription drugs, and the military service medals of some.
The City Council will vote on Feb. 24 on whether to continue the cleaning sweeps under new guidelines. The city stopped the sweeps in October after a veteran’s group threatened to sue, saying the city rights of the homeless were violated.
The city has conducted the sweeps since 1998, hiring the nonprofit Keep Colorado Springs Beautiful. Colorado Springs police and the group say they’ve only removed trash ” not personal belongings ” and illegal drugs from the site.
“When you hear that sleeping bags are being thrown away … they are no longer usable because of the extreme filth,” said Colorado Springs Cmdr. Kurt Pillard. “Items have also been disposed of that are infested with rodents and insects.”
But Robert Moran, founder of the Street Church, which helps the homeless, has questioned city’s motives, and doesn’t see the work as an effort to keep Colorado Springs clean.
“Nobody is against cleaning up trash. But the sweeps are a desperate attempt to solve the homeless problem by making them go someplace else,” he said.
The city’s new rules for the sweeps would call for notices to be posted at the sites 72 hours in advance of the cleanups. Homeless people would also be allowed to retrieve personal belongings from a place without police involvement.
More people became aware of the sweeps after Moran videotaped one of them. It showed workers putting pillows and other items in trash bags, and on officer sifting through a suitcase.
Homeless people say they are often caught off guard by police and the nonprofit workers, some of whom are performing court-ordered community service.
“You come back, and your whole camp is upside down,” said Jeff Wempe, 43. “I lost my whole camp, my tent, my sleeping bag. They took my ID. I had to send back to Missouri where I was born, and they had to send me a birth certificate.”
Information from: The Denver Post, http://www.denverpost.com
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