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//Tiley English riffles through her housing paperwork in the hotel she was put up in by the city after the sweep of her encampment. She has been waiting for months for a room. Photo by Madison Lauterbach | mlauterbach@msmayhem.com

Editor’s note: Cassandra Ballard visited the encampment on Aug. 18, the day before it was swept

For a moment, things looked like they were going to be ok for the three tents parked at Glenarm and 29th. Abby Hasen and Vincent Martinez lounged on the couch, sitting outside Martinez’s tent. Tiley English and her close friend were sanitizing and reorganizing her space, which itself already looked clean. 

Relief pervaded the group after what seemed like a win when the Denver Police Department stopped their initial attempt at a sweep and told the residents they would have seven days to move. 

A Five Points native, Martinez sat on the grey couch outside his tent, next to freshly picked flowers in a white vase on his small wooden table. He giggled with his rounded smiley eyes about growing up in the predominantly Black neighborhood. He explained how Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales made it possible for Latinos like him to live there. 

Martinez talked about his son passing away and wanting to get housing so he could see his grandchildren. He said he had too much pride to talk to them while he was on the streets. 

“No one wants to live in a tent,” he said “I’m usually a loner, but I like living here. We protect each other.”

Martinez said he didn’t like the other camps because people were careless and wouldn’t clean up after themselves. He said that even if they are going to do something illicit like drink alcohol in public, they need to keep it hidden so children can’t access it or be exposed to public intoxication. 

Martinez found somewhat of a kinship with Hasen. Hasen recently became homeless at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. She worked as a manager at a Subway in Idaho Springs when she was transferred to Denver. Her hours were drastically cut because of the decrease in business and she was unable to afford a place to live. She eventually lost her job due to not having reliable housing.

English is a thin woman with a big smile, who stands at 5’3” and weighs no more than 110 pounds. English is tiny but mighty. She laughed as her friend said how he had to wrap his arms and legs around her one time to keep her from going to the store late at night. 

“She’s really strong,” he said. “I’m worried about her. It can be dangerous out there at night.”

English suffers from ailments that put her on disability and make it hard for her to live on the streets. She is unable to stay in homeless shelters because she is allergic to bedbugs and prefers staying in her tent where she can clean it to her liking. 

“I don’t think I could handle another winter on the streets,” she said.

She was celebrating her impending move into an apartment soon while explaining that it took a lot of legwork and time to get there. At the time of the sweep, she was days away from moving into an apartment thanks to the help of Jeff Ritter from the Coalition for the Homeless. When the police went to evict the encampment she decided to voluntarily put her stuff in storage and stay in a hotel until her housing was ready. She was given a hotel voucher, which is good for two nights. However, English found out on Aug. 20 that the apartment she’s been waiting for will not be available for 30 days. 

Her friend hoped to hold her spot and find a safe and clean resident to replace her. They both wanted someone who would respect the other residents in the encampment. 

Even though the entire encampment was told they had to move in a week, they all planned to stand their ground until they found real housing.

“I’ve been blessed to live the life I have,” Martinez said. “I’m just hoping for a little more luck.”

Early the next morning on Aug. 19, the Denver Police Department conducted a sweep on the encampment even though they gave the residents an additional week the day prior.

Although Martinez and English are in hotel rooms, for now, the vouchers are only good for one night. According to Terese Howard from Denver Homeless Outloud, the residents who had their camp swept will be required to go across town and retrieve their belongings before returning back to the streets. 

If you are able to provide assistance to any of these residents, please email staff@msmayhem.com for contact details.