By Eric Galatas
A growing number of tents popping up in neighborhoods across Denver have made it harder to ignore a chronic and expanding housing crisis in Colorado and across the U.S.
An initiative approved for Denver’s November 2 ballot calls for the city to crack down on campsites, and to build sanctioned sites with running water, toilets and lighting on public property.
Cathy Alderman, chief communications and public policy officer at the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, said the proposal amounts to an empty promise, because it fails to allocate land and other resources necessary to create safe outdoor spaces.
“We know camping-ban enforcements and extreme measures like the one proposed do nothing to resolve homelessness,” Alderman contended. “They do not provide resources to get people into safe spaces and into housing.”
Initiative 303, proposed by Garrett Flicker, chairman of the Denver Republican Party, would require written permission from owners to camp on private property, and the city would have 72 hours to respond to complaints.
“We know camping-ban enforcements and extreme measures like the one proposed do nothing to resolve homelessness. They do not provide resources to get people into safe spaces and into housing.”
Cathy Alderman, Colorado Coalition for the Homeless
Denver currently is not enforcing a camping ban already on the books. A county court ruled the law was cruel and unusual punishment in a case that could be taken up by the Colorado Supreme Court.
If voters approve Initiative 303, Alderman worries enforcement will fall hardest on the city’s most vulnerable residents.
“Any time you have an enforcement mechanism that is targeted at people experiencing homelessness, it is going to disproportionately impact those who are more likely to experience homelessness, which often are people of color,” Alderman explained.
Alderman pointed to a number of local, state and federal proposals meant to reverse decades of disinvestment in affordable housing as a better strategy to end homelessness. She said if the city implements 303, it actually will take resources away from motel vouchers and other tools that are effective in helping people find their way into permanent housing.
“So if the city is having to respond to every call about every tent, every time someone sees one, they are not going to be able to send people out to resolve issues, they’re just going to be sending people out to move people around,” Alderman asserted.
Eric Galatas is a Producer with Public News Service.
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