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Denver clears out an encampment of homeless immigrants

An encampment outside of Elitch Gardens amusement park in Denver has been home to about 60 newly-arrived immigrants, mostly from Venezuela. The city cleared the camp on Thursday, March 28.
Sam Fuqua
/
KGNU
An encampment outside of Elitch Gardens amusement park in Denver has been home to about 60 newly-arrived immigrants, mostly from Venezuela. The city cleared the camp on Thursday, March 28.

On Thursday, March 28, the city of Denver cleared out an immigrant camp at Elitch Gardens, an amusement park at the edge of downtown.

About 60 people, mostly from Venezuela, have camped there for several weeks, in the shadow of the waterslides and roller coasters.

Kezia Lozano from the Migrant Care Coalition, was one of the volunteers who showed up the day before the sweep to help people pack up their belongings.

"We're making sure that we're treating them with dignity and respect as we pack up their things. We're going to make sure everything is super well labeled so they know where their stuff is going. They're allowed to take two bags with them to the shelter, so we'll allow them that. And then any of their extra stuff that they do want to keep, we just have volunteers, like, 'it's going to live in my garage, it's going to live in Amy's garage,' it's going to live in different people's houses that folks will continue to have access to," she said.

Denver Mayor Mike Johnston announced that by the end of March, the city would close four temporary hotel shelters that had been housing newly-arrived immigrants.

The city has also launched a program to source low-income housing options for the immigrants.

Lozana says with the shelters closing and the current housing crisis, many newly-arrived immigrants have no choice but to sleep on the streets.

"There's truly no other options. I mean, we hear constantly from the city that their two options are rent your own apartment, which is to me, honestly, goofy. I have lived in Denver for over five years now, and I still have trouble paying for my apartment," she said.

"So to tell these people to just find an apartment is not a real solution. And the other option that they're being pushed towards is to get a bus ticket to another city."

 A line of tents in the shadow of Elitch Gardens amusement park on March 27, the day before the city of Denver cleared out the camp.
Sam Fuqua
/
KGNU
A line of tents in the shadow of Elitch Gardens amusement park on March 27, the day before the city of Denver cleared out the camp.

Juan Carlos Pioltelli has been living at the camp for two months. He says if people were allowed to work they would not be camping on the streets.

"We just try to survive here. We don't make any mistakes. We just making everything clean. So the city also have to know that we are not bad guys," he said.

More than 40,000 immigrants have arrived in Denver since December 2022. According to Denver's migrant dashboard, over 700 of those are currently in city-run shelters.

Copyright 2024 KGNU. To see more, visit KGNU.
This story was shared with us via Rocky Mountain Community Radio, a network of public media stations in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, and New Mexico, including KDNK.

Sam Fuqua