December 12, 2012 in Event
When: Monday, Dec. 17th 3pm-6pm
Where: Civic Center Park across the street from the City and County Building.
Featuring: a performance by The Raging Grannies
It’s a Charlie Brown Holiday and the psychiatrist is in. For the considerable sum of five cents, Lucy will be happy to help Charlie Brown, Albus Brooks, and all the city council members who support the inhumane “Urban Camping Ban” with those fear-of-the-homeless issues that keep them awake at night. Gone will be the night terrors, the calling of the cops, and missing that all-important field goal kick. ARRGH!
Join Occupy Denver for a holiday dance party and protest against the criminalization of homelessness. The Raging Grannies will be performing Christmas carols for both the naughty public officials and the nice people who think that some politicians sound like squeaking rodents who care more about getting a hula-hoop for Christmas than the well being of their fellow humans. Good grief! There will be costumes, music, dancing, and fun for all ages as we share our list and check it twice. We’ll also have free food, hot cocoa, and cookies!
Why All the Hoopla?
Targeting the homeless with criminal sanctions places an already vulnerable community at greater risk and complicates efforts to help individuals find their way out of homelessness. This is especially acute for homeless youth who are forced into the shadows by this ordinance, pushed away from outreach workers and exposed to even greater harm. This ordinance explicitly ignores the expert advice of The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty and The National Coalition for the Homeless in addition to the United States Interagency on Homelessness and is a violation of international human rights standards.
Mayor Michael Hancock, Councilman Charlie Brown (District 6) and Councilman Albus Brooks (District 8), with pressure from the Downtown Denver Partnership, led the effort to pass an ordinance in the Denver City Council targeting the homeless with criminal sanctions for sleeping anywhere in the City of Denver with any coverings or belongings other than the clothes on their body. The “Urban Camping” Ban, now Sec. 38-86.2. of the Denver Municipal Code, passed on May 14, 2012 and supersedes Sec. 38-86.1. which provided the homeless a safe sanctuary in the Downtown Denver Improvement District between the hours of 9:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. The 16th Street business community wanted the homeless out of sight before the tourist season began.
Not only was all expert advice ignored in drafting this ordinance, but it was introduced into the Land Use, Transportation & Infrastructure Committee before consulting with the Denver Homeless Commission, a commission appointed by Mayor Hancock himself. It was introduced into the Land Use Committee instead of the Health, Safety, Education & Services Committee where it belonged so that it would garner enough votes to clear the committee to the full City Council. It became clear early on in the process that the ordinance had a predetermined outcome that would provide a quick solution to serve the individual interests of Denver’s 16th Street business community who felt the presence of the homeless in the downtown harmed them economically.
The ordinance was introduced with promises that it would help connect the homeless to shelters and services while all the experts repeatedly said there were simply insufficient resources for the homeless. John Parvensky, President of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, told the Denver Post, “It is even more inhumane to make [homelessness] illegal while acknowledging that there is not sufficient shelter or housing alternatives. There is a significant lack of adequate emergency shelter to meet the needs of our citizens in Denver, such that tonight, after every shelter bed in the city is full, there will be hundreds of men and women sleeping on the streets, in their cars, or in abandoned buildings. Compounding the problem is the lack of health, mental health, and substance abuse treatment services for those experiencing homelessness, which creates multiple barriers to housing and employment. Last year, more than 2,000 individuals who are homeless and mentally ill in Denver were on the waiting list for mental health services at the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless’ Stout Street Clinic due to lack of capacity to serve them.”
Many people who opposed the ordinance during public hearings stated that there were serious issues that needed to be addressed, and that a more appropriate way of addressing them was to convene a problem-solving conversation with the homeless, the 16th Street business community, people concerned about Civic Center Park, organizations that offer shelter and services to the homeless, the faith community and other interested individuals and organizations. A number of City Councilmembers offered amendments to the ordinance to make it safer for the homeless.
Not a single change to the ordinance was made to address the concerns of the large number of speakers who opposed the ordinance. To quote Councilwoman Shepherd on the evening of the final vote, “I know the way this vote is going to go. I know it. And I think you all know how this vote is going to go too. And unfortunately, the sad thing about it is that it has been like that from day one.”
The process was an affront to democracy, transparency and accountability. The ordinance was passed in the Denver City Council by a vote of 9 to 4:
Voted Against Ordinance
Susan K. Shepherd (District 1)
Paul D. López (District 3)
Robin Kniech (At Large)
Deborah (Debbie) Ortega (At Large)
Voted For Ordinance
Jeanne Faatz (District 2)
Peggy Lehmann (District 4)
Mary Beth Susman (District 5)
Charlie Brown (District 6)
Chris Nevitt (District 7)
Albus Brooks (District 8
Judy H. Montero (District 9)
Jeanne Robb (District 10)
Christopher Herndon (District 11)