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Denver's second sanctioned homeless camp became the temporary home to 39 residents on Dec. 15, 2020.

At least one member of Denver’s City Council seems to get it: Denverites are sick and tired of addicts and other street dwellers taking over the city and demanding the right to “camp” where they please.

The rest of the council may insist that’s why they voted last week to set up another city-sponsored array of tents with generous amenities, this time on municipal property. It’s their attempt — however futile — to redirect the squatters away from pitching their tents and lean-tos on public park grounds, sidewalks, trails, medians and the like.

But District 5 Councilwoman Amanda Sawyer, the lone dissenter when the council approved its latest camp on Monday, realizes the whole approach is a dead end. As The Gazette reported, Sawyer has regularly challenged the tent camps, arguing that efforts to address homelessness should emphasize conventional, indoor shelters instead. That should go without saying.

Like the other “Safe Outdoor Spaces” that the city has sponsored to coddle the campers amid COVID, this operation in the parking lot of the Denver Human Services East Office at 3815 N. Steele St., is not only a hazard for neighbors but also an insult to all Denver.

Of course, it’s a sweet deal for the drifters who get to use it. The new 15,000-square-foot campsite will house up to 50 residents, providing them with heated tents, bathrooms, laundry services, internet access, food donations, dental care, food stamps, COVID-19 testing, community service opportunities and services for finding permanent housing. The campsites are also fenced and staffed 24/7.

All that’s missing is a turn-down service and mints on their pillows.

Make no mistake — the people served by these camps are not to be confused with the vast majority of the homeless population. These beneficiaries of the city’s largesse are the drug- and alcohol-addicted itinerants who chronically roam the streets and panhandle highway off-ramps. They harass innocent passersby and engage in theft and other crime as well as criminal violence. They are the ones who insist on using our public parks as places to shoot up with drugs, smoke pot and sleep off their highs in the noonday sun. They are the ones who use bushes, planters and alleys downtown and elsewhere as their personal latrines. In almost every case, they refuse day work — and most notably, they refuse any help from local shelters.

They are “homeless” only in the narrowest sense of the word and aren’t worthy of the label. They have little in common with the vast majority of truly homeless people who have suffered real misfortune and will value any opportunity to get back under a roof and on their feet. The campers, in most cases, are addicted not only to their drugs of choice but also to their rootless lifestyle in general. Most don’t want permanent homes or steady jobs — ever.

Another city-sponsored camp — this will be the sixth during the pandemic; three others are currently in operation — will change very little of that behavior. That’s not to say all the camp dwellers are irredeemable. In principle, anyone can be saved. But for most, to mend their ways requires a fundamental change of attitude — starting with the willpower to stay off of drugs and alcohol. Many also need treatment for mental illness. They face long odds.

As noted in The Gazette’s report last week, the city’s program so far has accommodated over 120 people, but only 17 are believed to have moved into longer-term housing, and only 18 got jobs.

A lasting solution is elusive. But allowing them to camp — whether in municipally sanctioned locations or illegal ones — won’t help. It only will harm the campers themselves, enabling and further ingraining their self-destructive lifestyle — while undermining the rest of the community.

Denver City Hall is engaged in a policy paradox on this issue. On the one hand, the administration of Mayor Michael Hancock says it is committed to enforcing the city’s camping ban (albeit within absurd, court-imposed limitations). On the other hand, the city is willing to pitch its own tents and festoon them with amenities rivaling the trendiest eco-tourism destinations.

If there is a discernible distinction between illegal camping in a city park and legal camping on a parking lot maintained by the city only blocks away — it probably is lost on the campers.

It definitely is lost on the many decent Denver citizens who, either way, have to endure the stench, drugs, disorder and crime of the campers and their squalor.

Call it camping — more like glamping — or call it what it is, squatting. It’s bad for the unfortunate soul who chooses that life as well as for the neighbor who has to put up with it. And the majority of the City Council has shown it really doesn’t care about either one of them.