Trash and debris were all that was left at a Clear Creek Trail site after more than a dozen homeless people — who had been living along a stretch of trail just north of I-76 between Arvada and Wheat Ridge — were relocated last month by a …
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Trash and debris were all that was left at a Clear Creek Trail site after more than a dozen homeless people — who had been living along a stretch of trail just north of I-76 between Arvada and Wheat Ridge — were relocated last month by a multi-agency partnership providing support and housing resources.
“Denver has done some similar cleanups, and over the past year some the homeless people moved out of Denver and into Jeffco,” said Jenny Fulton, spokeswoman for the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office. “When we realized this was becoming an issue, we tried to find a way to get them help and not just kick them out of where they've been living.”
The cleanup came in response to citizen complaints of an increasing homeless population along the trail as well as increased criminal activity, Fulton said.
The sheriff's office was joined by the Arvada Police Department, Wheat Ridge Police Department, Colorado Department of Transportation and other human services agencies for the operation.
Jeffco met with partner agencies to identify available support and housing resources and to determine how best to provide those resources to those living in homeless camps along Clear Creek Trail between Sheridan Boulevard in Arvada and Johnson Park, 4084 Wadsworth Blvd., in Wheat Ridge. Rather than transport the individuals to each agency for assistance, it was decided to bring aid to them, Fulton said.
The agencies established a command post that included representatives from human services, mental health, veterans assistance, public libraries and other social service and medical agencies, in addition to law enforcement. Services included housing assistance, transportation, hygiene help, mental health assistance and resource information.
Law enforcement personnel escorted service providers to the various homeless camps. Any homeless were either provided a ride back to the command post to receive services, and medical attention if necessary, or services were brought to them on site.
The sheriff's office gave advance notification to those living along the trail of the cleanup and the services that would be provided. On Sept. 21, deputies found 15 homeless individuals. But law enforcement believes that over the course of several weeks up to 40 homeless people were living along the trail.
Joe Zamora, who works less than a mile south from the park along Wadsworth, said he has watched the population there grow.
“We often work lake nights, and it's been pretty bad, seeing all the people who walk through our parking lot or behind the building,” Zamora said. “We see tents a lot in the area. Since the homeless have been here, we stopped coming to this park. Good for the police and county getting them help."
The next step and the project's second goal, Fulton said, is to return the trail and surrounding open space to a safe recreational environment. To accomplish this, the Colorado Department of Transportation — which owns the land— has posted “no trespassing” signage and has initiated efforts to remove graffiti in the area, remove all debris and trash and trim trees and brush to increase visibility. Law enforcement will also increase patrols along the trail.
Although the Clear Creak Trail cleanup was the first homeless camp and relocation cleanup done by the sheriff's office, Fulton said it won't be the last, as the homeless population increases in Jefferson County.
But, Fulton said, “We established a model way of doing a cleanup of this type that is humane.”
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