Homeless in Englewood

What property is public or private?

The answer can determine whether a person can remain there or not

Posted 8/22/18

Unlike Denver, where a 2012 law bans camping on private and public property, Englewood does not have a law specifically barring camping — staying in an outdoor place with a tent, sleeping bag or …

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Homeless in Englewood

What property is public or private?

The answer can determine whether a person can remain there or not

A tote bag of cans, plates and food containers next to a garbage bag of other materials and a beer can along South Platte River Drive in Englewood May 6. Personnel from the City of Englewood, outside homeless-resource volunteers and other governmental agencies carried out a cleanup of the river in January, during which about two dozen camps were located and about 25 truckloads of trash were removed from along the river.
A tote bag of cans, plates and food containers next to a garbage bag of other materials and a beer can along South Platte River Drive in Englewood May 6. Personnel from the City of Englewood, outside homeless-resource volunteers and other governmental agencies carried out a cleanup of the river in January, during which about two dozen camps were located and about 25 truckloads of trash were removed from along the river.
Ellis Arnold
Posted

Unlike Denver, where a 2012 law bans camping on private and public property, Englewood does not have a law specifically barring camping — staying in an outdoor place with a tent, sleeping bag or other shelter.

But where a homeless person can legally spend time or stay outdoors is more complicated than that.

The city can move homeless people from public property under laws that prohibit:

• Loitering, defined as standing idle or interfering “with the free and unobstructed use” of a public place by others.
• Obstructing a sidewalk.
• Trespassing, which means to be on property without permission.

Officers often give trespass notices — which ban a person from returning for one year — at the Englewood Civic Center, the municipal building at 1000 Englewood Parkway that houses the city’s library and most of its administrative offices. A person can receive a trespass notice for law violations such as aggressive — violent or threatening — panhandling, blocking access to or from a business, or other harassing behavior, according to Sgt. Chad Read, spokesman for Englewood police. 

MORE: Englewood increases security

Trespass notices can be given even on publicly accessible property, such as the RTD station next to the civic center. RTD handles its own trespass policy, said Investigator Scot Allen, another spokesman for Englewood police.

Whether a person can get in trouble based on loitering — being on public or private property without a specific purpose — is less clear-cut. A person is unlikely to be written up for loitering in a park, Read said, but it is possible under Englewood’s law.

Many loitering situations are handled under trespass law instead, said Joe Jefferson, Englewood’s municipal judge.

MORE: Judge Jefferson on ruling with the human element in mind

Camping on a sidewalk, if a person isn’t blocking pedestrian access, is likely not something police could move a person for, Englewood police Sgt. Reid McGrath said. Portions of alleys are owned by the adjacent property owner, which can dictate the response by police if a person is staying in such an area.

A person lying in the grass near a public sidewalk who isn’t causing a problem also may not be an issue, but it’s up to an officer to make that decision, Read said.

It’s illegal to sleep or live in a vehicle in Englewood, but Jefferson said it seems that people aren’t frequently cited for it, although there may be some cases that don’t get to him as judge. He doesn’t see many cases for loitering, he said.

The city is considering a camping ban, but because it may be in conflict with other case law related to homeless individuals’ rights, Englewood will undertake legal analysis before moving forward, City Manager Eric Keck said.

Private elements

What’s more, despite housing the city’s municipal offices and court, the Englewood Civic Center and the areas around it are owned by a nonprofit entity, the Englewood Environmental Foundation.

The city created the EEF in the late 1990s to oversee ownership of some property in the CityCenter Englewood development — roughly the area between West Hampden and Floyd avenues, and from the light-rail tracks to South Elati Street, excluding the Walmart and apartments — where Cinderella City mall used to sit. City of Englewood officials make up its board of directors.

The EEF employs private security that patrols the civic center and has discretion separate from Englewood police. Read and Allen were unsure whether EEF has rules that go beyond standards set by city ordinances.

Brad Power, Englewood’s director of community development and an EEF board member, said the outside areas under EEF’s ownership are publicly accessible, aside from the nearby apartments, and the commercial buildings can have their own rules.

Power said he did not have information on whether private security tells people to move off EEF property based on rules or standards other than city law. Keck said EEF can establish its own rules and regulations on its property.

Police and the city also ordered homeless encampments to leave the South Platte River in January. The river was designated as a flood-control mitigation area by the Urban Drainage and Flood Control District, which works with metro cities to manage waterways and remove trash and debris. Keck also declared it a public nuisance under city law.

But who owns the land on the Platte along Englewood’s city boundary near West Dartmouth Avenue is unclear, Keck said, because the river’s path has changed over the years.

“Until such time as ownership of the land is confirmed,” Keck said, “moving people off the area may not be possible.”

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