Join Us to Protest Downtown Denver Partnership Support for “Urban Camping” Ban

May 10, 2012 in Press, Video

Flashmob Protests During May Day / City Council Public Hearings, April 30th

The Downtown Denver People’s Partnership including organizations like the Denver Catholic Worker and Occupy Denver will conduct a series of protests leading up to the Monday night city council vote on an ordinance that will criminalize the survival act of sleeping by our homeless friends. The protests seek to highlight the business influence pushing this ordinance through city council.

Saturday, May 12th Actions:

6:00 to 8:00 pm: Protest at the Palm Restaurant, 1672 Lawrence Street, Denver, CO 80202 (map) and other members of the Downtown Denver Partnership supporting this ordinance. Meet at 5:30 pm in Lincoln Park if you’d like to march to the Palm Restaurant via City Hall.

8:00 pm overnight: Mass overnight sleep-in protest in front of the Downtown Denver Partnership, 511 16th Street, Denver, CO 80202 (Between Glenarm Place and Welton Street) (map). Bring your sleeping bags and/or blankets for an all night sleep-in.

Monday, May 14th Actions:

Noon to 5:30 pm: Bring your sleeping bags and/or blankets for a day-long rally on the City Council steps (City and County Building, 1437 Bannock St, Denver, Colorado 80202). From noon until 5:30 there will be a series of actions and speeches highlighting the injustice of this ordinance. The City and County Building will be open to the public, let your voice be heard.

4:30 pm: Rally to OPPOSE the “Urban Camping” Ban at the City and County Building (1437 Bannock St, Denver, Colorado 80202)

5:30pm: We will enter the building to the City Council Chambers with our blankets and sleeping bags to crowd the council meeting in opposition to this ordinance.

Corporate and business interests in downtown Denver coalesce in the Downtown Denver Partnership, an organization that believes the homeless “will drive future conventions, tourists, residents and businesses from downtown.” Partnership members control billions of dollars of assets. The opportunities to obtain funds for campaigns and city services from the corporations represented by the partnership are clearly tempting city council members away from their duty to listen to the people who elected them and to find compassionate ways to eradicate homelessness.

The Downtown Denver People’s Partnership has information from a reliable source that the partnership has been discussing this ordinance for two years. After the ordinance emerged from “embargo” at Councilman Brooks’ office, it has consistently appeared like a “done deal.” City council insiders Shepherd and Lopez have consistently pointed this out. Before the ordinance passed first reading, Councilwoman Shepherd said, “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.”

While this ordinance was embargoed, Mayor Hancock and Councilman Brooks bypassed consulting the Denver Homeless Commission, the Inter-Neighborhood Cooperation and the homeless themselves. Little effort was made to pair adequate resources with the ordinance.

While the Bill Request specifically states that ordinances like this “are justified on the basis protecting the health, safety and general welfare of the public,” the ordinance was assigned to the Land Use committee instead of the Health and Safety committee. As Councilman Lopez pointed out, this was done so that it would advance. All amendments to make the ordinance safer have been rejected.

Mayor Hancock is already training the police on implementing this ordinance before it has even passed.

Protests

The Downtown People’s Partnership plans to protest Palm Restaurant, the Colorado Restaurant Association and other members of the Downtown Denver Partnership that are supporting this ordinance. Colorado Restaurant Association members voted unanimously to support criminalizing homelessness. We will then conduct an all night sleep-in protest in front of the partnership itself.

Tamara Door, CEO of the Downtown Denver Partnership, spoke strongly in favor of the ordinance criminalizing homelessness at the city council public hearing. Door believes that, “Unauthorized camping poses a threat to the health and safety of the city’s residents, employees, visitors and to the unauthorized campers themselves.” As the Downtown Denver People‘s Partnership conducted their first sleep-in protest last week in front of The Pavillions on 16th Street Mall, we did not notice any overwhelming health and safety issues for “unauthorized campers”. On the contrary, we appreciated the well lit, safe environment provided by the 16th Street Mall.

Sleep-In Protest at The Pavillions on 16th Street Mall, Tuesday, May 1st.
All photographs by Kendra Kellogg

Like Snooze Co-Owner Brianna Borin, Door also believes the criminalization of the survival act of sleeping will assist individuals to get the help they need. According to Door, “an immediate legislative response to the overwhelming problem of unauthorized camping is necessary…In this point in time, we absolutely need to foster a safe and humane environment in downtown and it requires consequences for those who refuse assistance and continue to engage in behaviors that threaten public safety and health.”

Wendy Klein spoke on behalf of Palm Restaurant and the Colorado Restaurant Association. According to Kline who could only refer to the homeless as they or it, “they are lining up outside our doors even as we speak this evening placing their property on our property to save their nights real estate so that they will have a safe, warm place to sleep impeding our guests and even those who are walking back and forth from the restaurant…Now with the warmer weather descending, we are seeing it come back in full force. Our people are asking us what we can do.” The wealthiest “movers and shakers” in Denver meet to eat, socialize and make deals at Palm Restaurant.

The Downtown Denver People’s Partnership calls on Palm Restaurant, the Colorado Restaurant Association, the Downtown Denver Partnership and the City Council to listen to the people and take the lead of other cities and pursue compassionate, justice-based alternatives instead of criminalizing homelessness. We call on business groups to increase funding for initiatives that will eradicate homelessness.

Homes Not Handcuffs: The Criminalization of Homelessness in U.S. Cities, a report from the National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, provides many alternatives to the criminalization of homelessness.

The report makes the following recommendations:

  • Instead of criminalizing homelessness, local governments, business groups, and law enforcement officials should work with homeless people, providers, and advocates for solutions to prevent and end homelessness.
  • Cities should dedicate more resources to creating more affordable housing, permanent supportive housing, emergency shelters, and homeless services in general. To address street homelessness, cities should adopt or dedicate more resources to outreach programs, emergency shelter, and permanent supportive housing.
  • Business groups can play a positive role in helping to address the issue of homelessness. Instead of advocating for criminalization measures, business groups can put resources into solutions to homelessness.
  • When cities work with homeless persons and advocate for solutions to homelessness, instead of punishing those who are homeless or poor, everyone benefits.