Vets Group to Sue Over Homeless Sweep

Vets Group to Sue Over Homeless Sweep

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – A statewide veterans advocacy group says it will file a federal lawsuit in a bid to prevent what it believes are illegal sweeps on homeless camps in Colorado Springs.

"My intention is to protect homeless veterans, but if it helps anybody else, then I’m all for it," Rick Duncan, a former Marine captain and director of the Colorado Veterans Alliance, which represents the interests of the state’s post-Sept. 11, 2001 veterans, said Oct. 21.

At issue are clean-up drives run by Keep Colorado Springs Beautiful, a nonprofit that receives some public funding to clean up litter around the city. According to the veterans group, Keep Colorado Springs Beautiful runs regular sweeps that target the personal belongings of the homeless, including military papers and service medals.

A video recording by a preacher who ministers to the homeless of a recent sweep show what appears to be a plainclothes police officer opening two suitcases and rifling through them. Duncan, speaking at a news conference at City Hall at noon, called it visual evidence that the drives violate the civil rights of the homeless.

The city will respond to questions about the sweeps at a news conference at 3 p.m. Thursday at the Gold Hill police substation, said Councilman Jerry Heimlicher, who attended the news conference.

"We’re in the process of looking into this," Heimlicher said, adding that the city is concerned about the rights of the homeless. "We have the city attorney looking into the legal side of it, we have the police chief looking into what’s being done and we’ll have answers on Thursday."

Keep Colorado Springs Beautiful could not immediately be reached for comment.

© Copyright 2008 The Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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