Attorneys for the city of Denver attorneys asked a federal appeals court Tuesday night to stop a federal ruling that requires city officials to give seven days’ notice before clearing most illegal homeless encampments.
The request comes a day after a ruling in a class-action lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court of Colorado in October that sought to stop the sweeps entirely. City attorneys filed an emergency motion Tuesday night to stay the decision, and also gave notice they’ll appeal the case in the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The emergency motion, filed with that appeals court, says Monday’s ruling prevents the city “from quickly addressing the unpredictable but unquestionably significant public health risks presented by encampments.”
“This places all Denver residents — including those experiencing homelessness — at grave risk of irreparable harm,” the motion said. It isn’t clear when the appeals court will decide whether to grant the stay.
There were about 30 sweeps in 2020, and six so far this year. The city has justified the sweeps by citing outbreaks of hepatitis A and shigella, and have blocked public rights-of-way. And one national expert said so long as the coronavirus pandemic continues, those far less deadly outbreaks don’t justify the sweeps.
City officials also have pointed to a fatal shooting downtown in July as a factor for clearing out an encampment in the area, but earlier this month, Denver police still wouldn’t say whether the shooting was linked to the encampment.
Besides the seven-day notice (shorter in certain circumstances), this week’s ruling mandated that city officials must also tell the attorney who filed the lawsuit, Andy McNulty, and the City Council member who represents the district when, where and why the sweeps will happen.
In certain emergencies, city officials sweep out an encampment with no less than two days’ warning so long as the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment signs off as well. In these cases, city officials must also provide detailed justification.
McNulty told The Denver Post on Tuesday night that he believes the judge ruled correctly this week, and wasn’t surprised at the city’s emergency motion.
“The city continues to throw good money after bad to defend these unconstitutional sweeps,” McNulty said. “They know it doesn’t work. They know it’s not effective at solving the homelessness crisis in the city but they keep throwing resources at it in an attempt to placate political interests.”
The federal judge’s ruling had also said city officials had not given advance notice before several larger sweeps because they wanted to avoid growing protests. The Denver Department of Public Health and Environment, the Department of Housing Stability and Mayor Michael Hancock’s office have not answered the Post’s multiple questions about possible avoidance of protests.
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