Top 13 Reasons the ‘Urban Camping’ Ban Is Harmful, Not Helpful

1. Denver already has 10 ordinances that prohibit the necessary survival actions/needs of the homeless—an additional ordinance is unnecessary.

2. The ordinance does not permanently remove homeless individuals from camp—people may be repeatedly ticketed with little to no effect. Homeless people who get jail time just come out and go back to camping.

3. Multiple sanitation-related ordinances already exist, so the ‘Urban Camping’ Ban is unnecessary to address “sanitation.” The ban does not address “public safety” as it heightens the danger of someone freezing to death.

4. Results in a huge cost impact on broader community: the 2010 Federal Strategic Plan to End Homelessness found that on, average, cities spend $87 a day to jail a person, compared to $28 a day for shelter. The Daily Camera (Boulder) reported the average cost of prosecuting one camping ticket is about $1,100. Just the 20 cases taken to trial since 2009 have cost city taxpayers around $22,000.

5. Burdens the Police Department who frequently do not have the staff to “round up and put away” homeless people.

6. Does not address the needs of the persistently mentally ill or chemically addicted who may be resistant to accept treatment/leave camps

7. Does not address the shortage of shelter space or lack of affordable housing. In 2011, the fair market rent for an average two-bedroom apartment was $841 in Colorado. Given that a monthly SSI benefit is only $698, SSI recipients cannot access affordable housing.

8. Has been deemed discriminatory by selectively enforcing the law against homeless people.

9. Criminal records create barriers to access to housing, employment and services such as health care—federal benefits are suspended while a person is incarcerated,

10. Laws or policies that result in the loss or destruction of important medication or keep homeless persons from accessing food or services can result in serious health consequences,

11. Negatively impacts service providers’ abilities to do their work and wastes resources: compromises the job of outreach workers as they would be considered an extension of the law which may break bonds with clients, diminishing the chances that they will access services,

12. Clogs and burdens criminal justice system: many of the trials that have already taken place resulted in acquittals for the accused

13. Legal Issues with Criminalizing Homelessness

  • Violates the Fourth Amendment which guards against unreasonable searches and seizures of property
  • Violates the Eight Amendment which guards against cruel and unusual punishment, including sleep deprivation
  • Violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, as the ordinance uses vague language that allows for arbitrary enforcement by law enforcement officials
  • Violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as shelters frequently do not accommodate people with disabilities and people are therefore forced to sleep outside Because disabled people frequently cannot access shelters, a criminal record would then affect their access to employment, state and local government programs and services– which further violates ADA

2 thoughts on “Top 13 Reasons the ‘Urban Camping’ Ban Is Harmful, Not Helpful

  1. Homelessness is the 800 lb. elephant in the land of plenty that is now too big to be ignored. So many people walk a narrow line between having homes and living on the street due to low wages, illness, family problems and other factors. Go online to YouTube and listen to the song “Souls Harbor Mission” by Stephen Ernest Smith and The Bluffdwellers. We can do more!

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