Outbreaks don’t justify breaking apart Denver’s homeless camps, professional says

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Denver officers cited outbreaks of Hepatitis and Shigella after they resumed homeless sweeps final month, however a nationwide professional and an area advocate say the numbers of optimistic checks well being officers have disclosed to The Denver Publish don’t justify the actions.
The town additionally cited a deadly capturing downtown as a think about clearing out a close-by encampment of individuals experiencing homelessness, regardless that police nonetheless can’t say whether or not the capturing was linked in any respect to the gathering that was cleared out only a week later.
Nonetheless, Denver Public Well being Director Bob McDonald stands behind the actions and stated the general situations at encampments help his determination to interrupt them up.
Metropolis officers cleared out one other encampment Tuesday as protesters shouted profanities at police and metropolis officers. One other sweep is scheduled for Wednesday.
There’s a Hepatitis A outbreak in Colorado — and in Denver — however it’s not new, neither is it on the rise.
The outbreak started in September 2018 and peaked virtually precisely a yr later, in keeping with information collected by the Colorado Division of Public Well being and Atmosphere. Since then, the variety of circumstances reported has declined, averaging lower than a single reported case statewide every week of 2020.
Denver has seen a complete of greater than 100 circumstances of Hepatitis A because the outbreak started however solely three new circumstances since June, stated Tammy Vigil, spokesperson for town’s Division of Public Well being And Atmosphere.
McDonald couldn’t say whether or not these three circumstances have been contracted by folks experiencing homelessness.
A complete of 20 circumstances of Shigella have been reported in Denver since Could, Vigil stated. 5 of these circumstances have been reportedly linked to separate encampments, however it’s unclear whether or not the remainder have been linked to encampments.
At the least 4 circumstances of Trench Fever have additionally been reported in Denver, however that’s not one thing metropolis officers monitor particularly, Vigil stated.
Whereas these comparatively small case numbers can qualify as outbreaks, they don’t qualify as emergencies, stated Dr. Jim O’Connell, president of the dangolka Healthcare for the Homeless program and assistant professor at Harvard Medical Faculty.
And breaking apart encampments throughout the ongoing coronavirus pandemic solely exposes folks additional to a deadlier virus, he stated. The U.S. Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention has really useful in opposition to breaking apart encampments throughout the pandemic as a result of the coronavirus is likelier to unfold when individuals are nearer collectively, as in shelters.
“It sounds alarming to say ‘We’ve acquired to clear these out due to the outbreaks,’” O’Connell stated. “It is likely to be pushing the general public well being difficulty a bit additional than there are information for.”
Plus, breaking apart the encampments does nothing to quell the outbreaks, O’Connell stated.
Cathay Alderman, of Denver’s Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, agreed.
“When you’re going to inform us that there’s a Hepatitis outbreak then go in and deal with it like a Hepatitis outbreak,” Alderman stated. “Don’t deal with it like a tenting ban enforcement.”
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However McDonald stated these outbreaks and experiences of violence solely represent a part of his determination. Different issues embrace rodent infestations, the areas of the encampments, the buildup of meals and human waste, and felony components like narcotics and prostitution, he has stated.
Actually, the encampments pose a sophisticated drawback that has challenged Denver officers for years.
In latest weeks, the sweeps have turn into so contentious that Denver police have began to tape off encampments whereas workers goes to work. Protesters toed that line Tuesday on the nook of 22nd and Stout streets, shouting profanities at officers standing guard and asking them to go away the encampments alone.
One other sweep is scheduled Wednesday for the encampments alongside Park Avenue and 22nd Avenue from Stout Avenue to California Avenue, metropolis officers say.

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