May 14: One Year Anniversary of the “Urban Camping” Ban

May 8, 2013 in Event

May 14 @ 1:30 p.m.

Demonstration at the Downtown Denver Partnership
16th and Welton

Where are homeless people without shelter supposed to sleep?
How are they to stay warm?
Denver needs help in solving these problems

Join us for a demonstration outside the Downtown Denver Partnership to raise our voices as we continue to call out their lobbying practices that place business interests over human rights.

The information in the survey shows that the 16th Street Mall and Civic Center have been largely cleared of the homeless, but hundreds of homeless people still walk the streets of Denver every night as they did before with a few changes. Now they cannot lie down, cover themselves and are constantly urged to “move on” by the police.

Activists have requested that the Downtown Denver Partnership meet (in light of the new information in the survey), and work with the homeless community and other caring groups to end this shameful situation which has been made worse by the ordinance. They have declined.

The Downtown Denver Partnership initiated the ordinance and now that it has passed, life is worse for the homeless. Help us ask the Downtown Denver Partnership to join with us and take a lead in the efforts to end this painful, disgraceful situation.

Denver’s homeless community, service providers, and concerned people joined together a year ago to resist the passage of this hurtful ordinance. We invite you to join together again one year later to continue to stand for the right to sleep.

For further information on how the camping ban has been effecting people’s lives, read the report prepared by Denver Homelesss Out Loud.

History of the “Urban Camping” Ban

Mayor Michael Hancock 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 that authorizes the police to require the homeless go to a shelter or move along whenever they are caught protecting themselves from the elements or face criminal sanctions. 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.

Its proponents said it would provide a quick solution to the unsightly impact of homeless people gathering on the 16th Street Mall and in Civic Center Park which hurt Denver’s reputation and its business climate, and at the same time provide more beds and services to the homeless.

Many people who opposed the ordinance during public hearings stated, even pleaded 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) – Lead Sponsor
Judy H. Montero (District 9)
Jeanne Robb (District 10)
Christopher Herndon (District 11)