A “yes” vote on 300 will mitigate the 2012 Denver camping ban, which prevents people from sleeping, eating, or using any kind of shelter beyond their clothing. This ban forces Denverites experiencing homelessness to move from safer, well-lit areas to unsafe places, and has resulted in the destruction of life-sustaining property and shelters. Telling people to “move along” can be life-threatening when there is no safe place for them to move to. A “yes” vote on 300 will not solve the problem of homelessness in Denver. But it is the first step toward a real solution, instead of the status quo--which we all know is not working.
Efforts to connect homeless people with services through laws against being in public do not work. For those who need these services, such services are so severely limited that many people do not have the option to access them--and thus being told to “move along” out of public spaces into these services is often not possible. In fact, David Henninger of the Denver Day Works employment program says that the camping ban actually makes it harder for Denverites to get to work, as they are swept out to surrounding communities. Making it harder to work means people are less likely to be able to support themselves and find housing.
The Right to Survive Initiative will not stop homeless people from having to follow the law. Just like anyone else, they will not be able to litter. Nor would anyone be allowed to to obstruct sidewalks or roads, or to camp on private property. This initiative would protect people who merely want to exist as safely as possible--not those who threaten public safety. In fact, a study by the Guardian found that areas with city-sanctioned homeless camps were more likely to experience a decrease in crime.
Everyone, housed or unhoused, will be able to use public parks as long as they obey the laws and respect curfews. It is important to remember that there are currently laws making sleeping with cover, sitting in certain areas, or the like, illegal, and nonetheless thousands of homeless people currently are spending their days in public spaces like parks. This activity is not a choice, and thus will not change with the passing of Right to Survive. What will change with the passing of the Right to Survive is that homeless people will not be harassed by police, continually told to move along from one place to another, moved to more hidden, distant, less safe places, and left in the cold without needed protection from the elements.
Initiative 300 asks that people experiencing homelessness be allowed to subsist in public spaces in a non-obstructive manner--meaning they cannot block sidewalks or entrances to homes or stores; they can't take over private property; and they can't break laws--whether by disobeying park curfews or by trespassing. The reality is that there is not enough shelter space or housing, and people have to live somewhere. People are already living unsheltered out of necessity, and Yes on 300 will mean they can do so with less fear and danger, but in compliance with the law.
Keep in mind that most people without homes, like any people, do not want be somewhere they're not wanted, or somewhere they will run into conflict.
Thanks to a recent settlement with the City of Denver, the city will be providing public toilets, as well as lockers, for homeless residents. This settlement is a huge step toward confronting the reality of homelessness, and will help Denverites, both homeless and housed, keep our city safe and sanitary.