DENVER, CO (STL.News) – The City and County of Denver has reached a proposed settlement agreement with the plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit over the removal of personal property during the cleanups of public areas. The proposed agreement is the result of many months of working together to forge an agreement that will make the city a national leader concerning the rights and treatment of those experiencing homelessness in America.
“I am impressed with the hard work and compromise by both sides in coming to this agreement,” Mayor Michael Hancock said, “Now we must return our focus to the important mission of connecting those experiencing homelessness with the resources they need to obtain housing, access treatment on demand, and engage with opportunity so that no one is left behind.”
“We sincerely appreciate the Plaintiffs’ willingness to work with the City to resolve these important and challenging issues,” said City Attorney Kristin Bronson, “We believe that the terms of this proposed settlement are not only favorable for people experiencing homelessness, but also reflective of their investment in working with the City and their representatives to find solutions to the benefit of all.”
“It’s not a panacea for economic injustice,” lead attorney Jason Flores-Williams said, “But a real effort by a major American city to recognize the constitutional rights of the poor and dispossessed.”
Andy McNulty, of Killmer, Lane & Newman, LLP, said, “In the United States, whether you are rich or poor, you have due process rights. This settlement cements the Denver homeless population’s fundamental right to due process.”
The settlement includes the following commitments:
- City officials will meet with an advisory group composed of people experiencing homelessness and their representatives on a quarterly basis to obtain feedback on City programs, listen to concerns and to discuss proposals.
- Seven days’ notice prior to large-scale cleanups when reasonably possible.
- Written notice of regular cleanups, including days and hours, posted near the location they will take place.
- Written notice for all cleanups will also include:
- That stored property may be retrieved at no cost without fear of arrest;
- A phone number to call with questions regarding property retrieval;
- Location and hours of the storage facility;
- Length of time property will be stored at the facility; and
- Length of time the city will store property until it is disposed of.
- 48-hour notice will be affixed to unattended personal property in violation of the Encumbrance Ordinance in regular cleanup areas, and can be stored for up to 60 days, unless determined by the city to be an immediate health or safety risk.
- The city will extend storage facility hours to 60 days and reassess with input from the advisory group.
- Development of a notification system by the city that personal property has been removed, including where the property was found and is being stored.
- The placement of approximately 200 lockers at the Minoru Yasui Plaza building and that may be used to store property for up to 30 days.
- 15 additional trash receptacles will be added to the Ballpark Neighborhood, and will not be removed for three years unless public health or safety requires it.
- Additional trash receptacles will be added during spring and summer months.
- Two port-o-lets, accessible 24 hours a day, will be placed at Sonny Larson Park.
- Sharps disposal boxes will be placed in Governor’s Park, Lincoln/La Alma Park, Macintosh Park, and possibly Sonny Lawson Park.
- The city will allow the use of “homeless ID” cards as a form of picture identification, and will allow the use of labor pay stubs, letters from shelters and letters from other homeless service providers as documentation for proof of income for participation.
- The city will seek a requests for qualifications to operate a Mobile Health Unit.
- The city will confirm its commitment to the expansion of the Denver Day Works program.
- Alternatives to using inmates for cleanups will be sought.
Denver’s Road Home will develop a homeless sensitivity training for city employees and contractors.