Proposed ballot initiative would change Denver’s camping ban
DENVER – For years, the city of Denver has searched for ways to deal with its homelessness crisis, a crisis that has only worsened amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last month, Mayor Michael Hancock presented his strategy at a newly opened men’s shelter in the Park Hill neighborhood. Part of the plan includes acquiring more motels to help the homeless.
As the city begins to take steps to move forward with this strategy, a poll proposal aims to take a different approach.
The proposal, which was submitted by the president of the Republican Party of Denver, would require the city and county to enforce current laws that ban camping for public property and ban camping on private property without the express consent of the property owner.
It also requires the city to take enforcement action within 72 hours of receiving a complaint.
Finally, it allows the city to create up to four safe outdoor spaces for those experiencing homelessness to camp, but it doesn’t specify where they would be. Instead, Flicker says city council would be responsible for finding areas.
“It’s a pragmatic solution. It seeks to do two things: first, to provide humanitarian assistance to the homeless or the homeless and second, to hold the city and county of Denver accountable in the face of this growing homelessness epidemic, ”said Flicker. .
He says these spaces would be needed to provide drinking water, sanitation facilities and emergency lighting. Flicker believes the limit on the number of safe outdoor spaces will be manageable for the city and keep the encampments under control.
Others see the proposition very differently; Terese Howard, an organizer of Denver Homeless Out Loud, considers the proposal dangerous and harmful to a population that is already suffering from an increase in sweeps of the city.
“This initiative is put in place to give individuals the ability to be the police, the ability to decide when laws should be applied and to whom they should be applied,” Howard said.
She also disagrees with the language of the proposal and whether this would actually require the city to set up safe outdoor spaces. The way she interprets it, the proposed vote would not require the creation of four outdoor spaces but would impose a ceiling that does not currently exist.
She also thinks it’s unreasonable to try to cram all of Denver’s homeless people into these camps.
“If we imagine that the roughly 5,000 or 10,000 people who are on the streets of Denver right now are going to end up in four penalty points, then we are crazy,” she said. “It’s not the kind of story we want to see continue where a bunch of unwanted people are forced to go to a particular camping area.”
Howard also has legal issues with the proposed ballot. After a recent court settlement, the city must provide seven days’ notice before performing a sweep.
If the initiative ends up on the ballot and passes, the city would be in a difficult position to enforce an ordinance that goes directly against this legal regulation or it could face legal action.
“The way this enforcement of the camping ban would play out is a very likely violation of our existing lawsuit settlement agreement with the city,” Howard said.
If the initiative passes, it could lead to another long and costly legal battle over how the city enforces a camping ban.
For now, however, the vote petition is moving forward. Flicker was able to collect more than 13,600 signatures in favor of the initiative and turn them into a city. He only needed about 9,000 valid signatures for the proposal to appear on the ballot.
Officials have 25 days to review and verify these signatures. Flicker is convinced that if he goes to the poll, the proposal will pass.