The homelessness situation in Denver is reaching an apex. After more than a year of COVID-turmoil and downturned economies desperate jobless people, unable to afford housed-life in the Mile-High City, are taking to the streets en masse.
Entire blocks and neighborhood streets in downtown have been effectively turned into campgrounds. People are pissing and shitting is alley-ways and parking garages behind million dollar homes. Tents are everywhere and the city itself seems to be at a loss as to what to do. They’ve pumped millions of dollars into homeless programs, initiatives and enforcement — to no avail. The problem continues to proliferate, like a hydra: every time one camp is raided and disbanded by police, another two seem to pop up elsewhere to replace it.
So, overwhelmed and dumbfounded, the City has decided to take drastic measures.
"There is a lot of frustration over the lack of enforcement of the urban campaign ordinance. That’s one of the things that we hope to address with this," Armando Saldate III, assistant deputy director of the Denver Department of Public Safety told 9 News. "There is a big outcry from our community to do something else. We know that outreach isn’t enough. We’re out there all the time and we can’t reach every encampment there is. There are conditions at these encampments sometimes where enforcement is needed."
Enter: Denver’s new “Street Enforcement Team” — for which the City officials are now accepting applications. It’s going to be an untrained, plain-clothed, civilian vigilante band, patrolling Denver in search of ne’er-do-wells, breaking city ordinances. They’ll be unarmed — except with the power of the law — the power to cite people (not just homeless people, either) for breaking rules like using cannabis in public, camping on the streets, being out in a park after curfew or trespassing.
Essentially, they’ll act as the City of Denver’s own “Hall Monitor Squad.” It will offer a position of power for those who want to enforce the cold-hard hand of Lady Justice, but who are also too lazy and out-of-shape to even become a cop. They’ll be the white-hat good guys, laying down the law for all of Denver’s homeless degenerates.
Not only would the members of this Street Enforcement Team be able to cite people for breaking certain city ordinances, they’d also have the ability to actually break up homeless camps. That’s right: unarmed civilians, wielding trifling authority, will be authorized to sweep and disband entire homeless encampments.
Which, sounds like a horrible idea. Empowering civilians to do the job of the police is no “solution” to Denver’s escalating homelessness. It just puts undue power into untrained hands and invites conflict and even violence. It just kicks the can further down the road and into a worse neighborhood.
"It is a disaster waiting to happen," Ana Cornelius with Denver Homeless Out Loud told 9 News. "This is not a solution. This is a way of increasing mass-homelessness in our city."