Public Health Agencies Speak up Against Freezing Sweeps

Public Health Agencies Speak up Against Freezing Sweeps

Attached see a letter from multiple local public health organizations – including Colorado Public Health Association, Human Impact Partners, and more – speaking up against sweeps of houseless people and their property in freezing weather.

See there letter below

December 7th, 2022
Denver City Council
1437 Bannock Street, Rm 451
Denver, CO, 80202

RE: Health Impacts of Encampment Sweeps During < 32 Degree Temperatures

Dear President Torres and Councilmembers,

As organizations and professionals charged with protecting the public’s health, we are writing to ensure that the City Council is aware of the health impacts of encampment sweeps during temperatures below 32 degrees. We hope that you will take this into consideration and set health-protective guidance regarding baseline temperatures for sweeps.
Safe, stable, and affordable housing is a basic necessity for our health, well-being, and dignity. Our homes should be a refuge, especially during extreme or dangerous weather. While many of us are fortunate to be able to live indoors, more than 1,300 Denver residents are unsheltered1, and
make their homes in encampments or outdoors. Forcibly removing residents from these homes harms health, and can be deadly in extreme weather or during the pandemic.
Even during warm weather, sweeps impact health. They make it harder for health and service providers to find the people we serve, and maintain continuity of care. We cannot vaccinate, treat, or help people heal when we can no longer find them. Sweeps can also cause encampment residents to lose the documents needed to access services, as well as essential medications, and can increase harmful interactions with police and the criminal legal system. Research has indicated that sweeps also diminish the probability of getting into housing. 2 Sweeps pose additional risks during the pandemic, when they can cause people to disperse throughout the
community and break connections with service providers, increasing the potential for infectious disease spread.
When temperatures drop below freezing, the risk for hypothermia and additional cold-related injuries to the body increases.3,4 As the shelters of encampment residents are removed, residents become directly exposed to cold weather conditions and for a longer amount of time — as they scramble to figure out where to go next. The intensity and duration of their exposure to cold substantially increases risk of injury and mortality. In fact, researchers have found excess mortality due to cold-related injury among houseless individuals compared to the general population — for example a prior cold-related injury such as frostbite, hypothermia, and immersion foot increases the odds of death by almost seven times. 5 We appreciate the City’s efforts to increase access to shelters during extreme cold, such as creating a direct line for aid, and planned transportation to shelters and additional outreach hours.
We encourage Council to take additional actions to plan for dangerous weather conditions, reduce barriers to accessing shelter (for instance barriers to people who are coupled, have pets, or identify as LGBTQIA+), and open warming centers. Supporting residents’ right to remain in their homes –no matter what that home looks like–during extreme weather saves lives. We urge you to protect the health of Denver residents by eliminating sweeps when temperatures are below freezing.


Megan Gaydos, MPH, Bridging Project Director, Human Impact Partners
Juan Roberto Madrid, BS,MPH, President, Colorado Public Health Association

John M. Douglas, Jr., MD, Public Health Physician and Denver Resident, Executive Director,
Tri-County Health Dept
Gillian Grant, Denver Resident, Program Manager at Trailhead Institute
Barrett Walker, M.A, B.S.N, RN, CCRN, Denver Resident
Laurel Imhoff, MD, Surgeon and Denver Resident
German Ascani, MD, MS, Psychiatrist and Denver Resident
Allison Brown, Director of Training and Consulting, Righteous Rage Institute
Savi Malik, MPH, Public Health Worker
Sarah Boland, Colorado School of Public Health Student
Benu Amun-Ra, S.A.C.R.Ed Eco-Center, Community Advocate
Hannah Groves, MPH, Colorado School of Public Health Alumni
Kat Kowalski, MPH, Colorado School of Public Health Alumni

4 Cleveland Clinic (2021). Hypothermia Can Happen Both Indoors and Outdoors. Available at:
3 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2019). Prevent hypothermia & frostbite. Available at:
2 Swept Away, the National Coalition for the Homeless. Available at: Swept-Away-2016.pdf (
1Metro Denver Homeless Initiative. 2022 Point in Time Count. Available at:

5 Hwang et al. (1998). Risk Factors for Death in Homeless Adults in Boston. JAMA Arch Intern Med.
158(13):1454-1460. doi:10.1001/archinte.158.13.1454

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