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Last spring, Jerry Burton was sleeping on the streets when a series of camping ban enforcements forced him and others in his encampment to move. They went from holding a stable spot on 27th and Arapahoe streets in Five Points to moving four times over the course of nine days to avoid citations. On the fourth move, they landed at a place along the Platte River in RiNo. About 15 tents were set up; it was cold. The police came by again. The shelters bar people who possess alcohol or drugs, but not all of those who are intoxicated or impaired. This article was also updated with comment from the Denver Human Services Department.
Stateline coverage on affordable housing. DENVER — Jerry Burton has lived in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood here for the past few months, in an orange tent pitched on a sidewalk.
A caseworker from the U. Department of Veterans Affairs is trying to find permanent housing for the year-old Marine Corps veteran whose tent is surrounded by his belongings neatly arranged in small plastic bags. Supporters say it would shield people experiencing homelessness from unfair citations and arrests. But business, environmental and social service organizations fear it would proliferate dangerous encampments in parks and on sidewalks without helping to house people. The Denver initiative is the latest front in a campaign advocates for homeless people have been waging at the state level for years.
Lawmakers in Washington state proposed similar legislation this year. None of the bills passed. In the wake of a U. Supreme Court ruling, things are about to get a lot more complicated for cities seeking to outlaw panhandling. So Denver Homeless Out Loud, an advocacy group that backed the Colorado legislation, decided to take the issue to voters.
Jovan Melton, sponsor of the Colorado Right to Rest bill. Aboutpeople in the United States are living on the street, in emergency shelters or in transitional housing, according to the latest count from the U. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Most people experiencing homelessness are clustered in expensive cities such as New York, Los Angeles and Seattle.
Cities nationwide have laws on the books intended to keep destitute people moving and out of sight. About a quarter of cities surveyed prohibit sleeping in certain public places, and almost half prohibit sitting or lying down in public. Even if a person is just sitting outside or sleeping in a clean tent, they can be told to either move on or be issued a fine, said Tristia Bauman, a senior attorney at the law center.
The Denver City Council in passed an urban camping ordinance that prohibits people from pitching tarps and tents or even covering themselves with a blanket in public places.
Other city ordinances ban aggressive panhandling, public urination, and sitting or lying down in a public right of way, among other activities. But enforcement is spotty. Denver police officers typically tell people violating the camping ban to move rather than throwing them in jail. Under the ordinance, police officers are required to give offenders a warning and try to connect them to assistance, such as addiction treatment, before making an arrest. The Denver Animal Shelter can temporarily shelter pets and at least one city shelter will take people regardless of substance abuse, she said.
On winter nights, he said, homeless people may have to trespass to curl up in a sheltered place, such as an abandoned stairwell. Debbie Hyatt, 67, was also waiting for her turn to enter the store.
She sat under an awning that cast a cool shadow on the pavement, shaping her nails with a pink nail file. She said she sleeps in a shelter now but slept on the sidewalk for a while after getting bedbugs from a shelter mattress. And it could be safer. The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty and other legal aid groups have successfully sued various cities to change policies that disproportionately affect people experiencing homelessness. But when advocates take their civil rights arguments to state lawmakers, they face serious opposition.
In Colorado, Rep. The political fight in Denver, if anything, has been fiercer than the state battles that preceded it. The opposing campaign, funded primarily by business groups such as the National Association of Realtors and the Downtown Denver Partnership, says the initiative would stop the city from enforcing laws that protect public safety without helping people access housing. The city says it could make police officers, park rangers and outreach workers reluctant to help people living on the street, as doing so could be considered harassment.
The ordinance also could make it more difficult for city staff to address health threats such as hepatitis A, rodents, feces, urine and discarded needles, the city said. Trash discarded by homeless people is already a problem along the South Platte River, said Shoemaker of the Greenway Foundation.
Before taking kids on outdoor excursions, he said, members of his education team scour the area for drug paraphernalia and human waste. Ruan, the law professor, said courts would decide how to Looking for a urban camping partner the statute and noted that after six months the city council could step in to modify it. Howard, of Denver Homeless Out Loud, said concerns about human waste and trash are distinct from the camping ban.
Maybe the city could do more to clean things up, he suggested. They also want permanent solutions. Daily update — original reporting on state policy, plus the day's five top re from around the web. Weekly newsletter—our best original reporting and analysis every Monday. Read Mode. Table of Contents. Jerry Burton, 57, stands beside his tent in downtown Denver.
The Pew Charitable Trusts. Stateline Story November 12, Quick View. She sleeps in a shelter now but for a time slept on the sidewalk. Stateline Story April 17, Please provide a valid address. About Stateline. Stateline provides daily reporting and analysis on trends in state policy. Looking for a urban camping partner In May, the first group of kids arrived to set up camp. Online: Now. Experience under canvas The shelters bar people who possess alcohol or drugs, but not all of those who are intoxicated or impaired.
This city might give homeless people the right to camp anywhere Under the ordinance, police officers are required to give offenders a warning and try to connect them to assistance, such as addiction treatment, before making an arrest. Protecting health and safety: campsite cleanup protocol may But when advocates take their civil rights arguments to state lawmakers, they face serious opposition.
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