By a 9-4 vote, the city of Denver has, effectively, made homelessness a crime. The ordinance, which bans unauthorized camping anywhere within the city limits, goes into effect on May 30. The city council is grossly underestimating the task at hand and, as of yet, has not sufficiently addressed what solutions are necessary to eliminate homelessness and car for those that are homeless.
During the meeting — which was not a hearing in which the public was allowed to comment — protesters shouted down council President Chris Nevitt, who pounded the gavel and screamed, “I need order, goddamn it,” after threatening to clear audience members from the chamber.
“Tonight was not about winners or losers. It was about beginning a long process of providing smart services to individuals that need it the most,” said the bill’s sponsor, Councilman Albus Brooks. “Time and patient application, not rhetoric, will reveal the true nature of this ordinance.”
Police Chief Robert White said he expects officers to have a “light touch” and arrests would occur only as a last resort.
Brooks read the standard operating procedures that police officers will have to follow, saying that no one will be arrested or cited if they say they want services and none are available.
It is completely understandable that citizens are getting angry when they are not allowed to voice their concerns. It is also confusing to vote for a ban, but then say there are not enough beds, but then add beds. Further, there won’t be arrests if no beds are available, but homeless people can still be arrested as a last resort. What, exactly, constitutes a last resort? No one is saying.
supporters said the ordinance will help people who are homeless find services. And it will give police the tools to move out homeless people, who over the past few years have irritated downtown merchants and tourists.
Supporters of the bill are looking at money and not people. The homeless drive away business and tourists, so the idea is moving the homeless elsewhere will bring dollars back to downtown Denver.
Councilman Chris Herndon, who voted for the bill, said that Colorado Springs has had a ban in place for several years and has seen its homeless population decline.
Of course the homeless population declined. It merely moved elsewhere. Given Denver’s close proximity to Colorado springs, it isn’t a stretch to conclude where some of Denver’s increase in homeless came from.
The city of Denver should have never passed this ban without first providing an adequate number of shelters and beds. It then should have installed adequate counseling and other services before making homelessness illegal. As usual, the poor continue to be punished for having the audacity to be poor. The city voted for money and image, ignoring compassion.