Denver staff offer an explanation for why the city cleared the out-of-the-way Pipe Town homeless camp

This week brought the end of Pipe Town, a camp near the South Platte River where people have been living in tents and wooden houses along a central path for a few years.

Early this week, city employees started clearing the place out, the latest of several encampments to be broken up, as Westword reported.

Chris Walker, the reporter who broke the story, described it as a “concerted effort by the city to uproot even its most out-of-the-way homeless individuals.” Still, he wrote, the city seemed to make more of an effort to notify service providers and to warn people living there.

I asked the city why it’s worth rooting out more-hidden camps like this. Why not let them be?

Spokeswoman Julie Smith replied that “there were very serious concerns about the unsafe, unhealthy and inhumane conditions (human waste, needles, mounds of trash, rodents) for the people staying there and there were additional environmental concerns posed by the location.”

She said outreach teams were at the site for five weeks ahead of the clearance and connected several people to services, including open beds at Denver’s shelters. Flyers about the impending clearance went up in September, Smith wrote in an email.

Meghan Hughes, spokeswoman for the Department of Environmental Health, added:

“Bob McDonald, our director of public health, visited the site and reported observing a significant amount of trash and fecal matter, which poses a risk to those living in the area and to the environment.

Without proper sanitation facilities, the risk of contracting communicable diseases like e.coli, norovirus, lice, scabies and hepatitis is higher.  Vulnerable populations often have compromised immune systems, putting them at greater risk of getting ill from unsanitary conditions.”

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Andrew Kenney

Author: Andrew Kenney

Andrew Kenney writes about public spaces, Denver phenomena and whatever else. He previously worked for six years as a reporter at The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C. His most prized possession is his collection of bizarre voicemail. Leave him one at 303-502-2803, or email