29 June 2021
Deecolonized Un-Tour: Kolorado Sweeps
“Things are a lot different on the streets since I’ve been out there,” said Benjamin, looking around at everyone in the circle. On this day, after doing our Revolutionary Journalist Workshop where we give a stipend to houseless people for writing their stories, we met with Therese and Benjamin from Denver Homeless Outloud, and interviewed them about the situation with houselessness and sweeps that were going on out here. Listening to him, I realized that our situation out in the Bay Area isn’t so different from theirs. In the Bay Area, we at Poor Magazine protest and fight against constant sweeps that happen in San Francisco and Oakland. These sweeps are unrelenting, happening so often that most of the time houseless folks being sweeps don’t even have a day's break before they are forcibly moved to another area.
Denver Homeless Outloud is currently pursuing a lawsuit that they opened six years ago in an act to prevent the constant sweeps that happen out here. It seems houseless people are treated similarly no matter what part of colonized Turtle Island we are on. The lawsuit began after Denver Homeless Outloud built Tiny Houses on private property that was abandoned for ten years, with a response from the mayor that was a bit overzealous. Seventy police officers showed up to stop the construction of the Tiny Houses, along with a SWAT team, and thus began a redoubled effort by the mayor to sweep the Denver Houseless population.
“So we filed the lawsuit, and rather than being about people’s right to exist in space the way the lawsuit is set up is about people’s property. Apparently your property has more rights than you do,” (insert name) said, sighing and looking down. After three years, the lawsuit was settled out of court, with the settlement being signed by the Denver houseless community and the City of Denver, which the City of Denver promptly broke. The settlement included warning from the city about when and where they were going to seize property to try to give the houseless community some warning before a sweep, yet the city went ahead and continued to sweep without warning regardless.
“There was a very high level of camping ban enforcement from 2016 to around 2019, when our lawsuit settlement went in place” said Therese, member of Denver Homeless Outloud, and a formerly houseless mother. She continued by talking about the things that have happened in the last couple of years to prevent houseless people from being on the streets. Public Rideaway Strips, the line of dirt or grass that goes between the sidewalk and the street are places that houseless people set up their tents because rideaway strips are not private property. After being swept and kicked out of every other place in Denver, the only place houseless people can camp are the public rideaway strips, and the city had put up orange and green fences on the strips to prevent that from happening.
Just like in the Bay Area, it is clear Denver puts in no effort to assist getting people off of the streets, and instead puts all their effort into making life even worse for houseless people, treating them like animals that need to be herded. It sickens me because this is the norm. Houseless and poor people have always been seen as less than human, because most houseless and poor people are people of color who have been oppressed by a system that is designed to keep them down.