As people of faith we believe that all people are created in the image of God and deserve to be treated with dignity, respect and compassion, We believe that “If there is a poor man among you, one of your brothers, in any of the towns of the land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand to your poor brother; but you shall freely open your hand to him, and generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks” (Deuteronomy 15:17)
We support policies and efforts that preserve people’s rights and dignity and oppose those that are detrimental, especially those affecting vulnerable populations. Therefore, we support the recommendations of Denver Homeless Out Loud’s Denver Camping Ban: A Report from the Street. This report of a survey of over 500 homeless individuals, conducted as a response to Denver’s Unauthorized Camping Ordinance criminalizing homeless individuals sleeping on the streets, demonstrates to us that this ordinance is morally reprehensible.
The report shows that the lives of unsheltered Denver residents have become more challenging, more stressful, and less safe since the ordinance’s enforcement began. They report being displaced, moved farther from resources and contacted by the police more often. And sadly, while police contacts have increased in frequency, the law’s enforcement protocol has not aided Denver’s unsheltered residents nor provided options other than sleeping on the streets.
This ordinance was passed by Denver’s City Council in May of 2012, despite the lack of sufficient shelter beds, mental health services, substance abuse treatment, affordable housing and living wage jobs, and without the support of homeless providers and churches.
We believe that a solution to the needs of our unsheltered brothers and sisters will only come about when citizens, churches, non profits, businesses and the City work together.
We strongly urge you to take action to:
- Repeal or modify the camping ban ordinance;
- Provide a legal and safe place for unsheltered people to sleep;
- Reform enforcement procedures so that social services are readily available to those who desire access;
- And Prioritize permanent affordable housing, shelters and resources for Denver’s homeless population
We strongly urge you to make these changes in policy and law, so that we, as the community of Denver can truly work together for the betterment of Denver’s homeless community, and not to its detriment.
Reverend Liliana Stahlberg, Pastor, Highlands Lutheran Church
Wolfgang Stahlberg, Pastor and Spiritual Director, Messiah Community Church
Pastor Tina Yankeee, Our Savior’s Lutheran Church
Reverend J Paul Howard, Montclair Community Methodist Church
Reverend Vernon K. Rempel, Senior Pastor, First Mennonite Church of Denver
Reverend Mark J Hill, Cleaves Memorial Christian Methodist Episcopal Church