Dems may shelter homeless, for a while |

Dems may shelter homeless, for a while

Colleen Slevin
Vail, CO Colorado

DENVER ” Hoping to avoid the need for police sweeps, Denver plans to get homeless people off the streets and into a shelter normally used during winter when it hosts the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

Deborah Ortega, executive director of the city’s homelessness commission, said Tuesday that anyone without a pass, homeless or not, won’t be allowed in a security zone that will be set up around the downtown Pepsi Center, where the convention will be held.

She said the zone will include parts of the South Platte River, a popular place to camp and hang out for many of the city’s estimated 4,600 homeless people.

“We just want to make sure they’re handled appropriately and taken to services that can help them,” Ortega said.

She didn’t know how large the security zone would be around the Pepsi Center, which is on the edge of downtown. Rachel Gordon, a spokeswoman for the organizing committee, declined comment.

The city’s shelter would be open around the clock for the first time under the convention plan, first reported by the Rocky Mountain News.

The homeless shelter normally is open only during winter.

Ortega said the city plans to have its workers ask the homeless to use the shelter during the convention rather than have them forced out of the security zone. Denver may also ask privately-run shelters to remain open around the clock during the convention. She also said she hoped some homeless people would land jobs because of extra business from convention-goers.

John Parvensky, president of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, said his group would monitor convention planning to make sure that homeless people aren’t asked to leave areas outside the security zone and will have the right to participate in convention-related events like rallies outside that area.

“I’m hoping Denver will set an example that you don’t need to take a punitive approach to try to respond to homelessness,” he said.

Under its homeless plan, the city is discouraging people from giving money to panhandlers, urging donors instead to use meters distributed throughout town to collect funds for the homeless.

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