FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Homeless Advocacy Group to Present Urban Camping Ban Survey Findings to Denver City Council Committee June 25th
Denver, CO – June 20, 2013 – On Tuesday, June 25th at 1:30pm the homeless peoples’ advocacy group Denver Homeless Out Loud (DHOL) will discuss the impact of the Denver urban camping ban on homeless residents with the Denver City Council’s Health, Safety, Education and Services Committee (Room 391, City and County Building, 1437 Bannock St, Denver, Colorado 80202). DHOL will present findings and recommendations from its report, The Denver Camping Ban: A Report from the Street, released on April 3rd after surveying 512 homeless people last November and December to learn how the ban has affected them. The survey was professionally written to be unbiased and the data analyzed and report produced by Dr. Tony Robinson, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science at University of Colorado/Denver, who will present the information to the committee at the meeting.
The Denver City Council passed the camping ban on May 14, 2012 in a 9 to 4 vote, making it a crime for people to shelter themselves from the elements without permission while on any public or private space. In supporting the ban, proponents said that, besides aiming to improve the appearance and business climate of downtown Denver, the goal was to improve the lives of the homeless. As Denver Mayor Michael Hancock stated in advocating for the ban, “Denver is a compassionate city that is dedicated to ensuring a high quality of life for those who live, work and play here. Removing the option to camp on our streets will…provide the impetus to better connect people to services such as shelter, food and clothing….Our No. 1 goal is to help move our most vulnerable residents to safer, healthier conditions.”
Yet the survey results clearly show that conditions have become much more challenging, unsafe and stressful for homeless people since passage of the ban. Among the report’s findings:
- 66% of the homeless who used to sleep in downtown Denver now hide in more hidden and unsafe outside locations.
- 37% say they have sometimes chosen not to cover themselves from the elements due to the ban.
- 60% report that they get less sleep due to frequently being told to “move along” (or living in fear of this), and feel less secure in the new areas they are finding to sleep.
Statements made by survey respondents include the following:
“Nowhere is safe to sleep anymore. So I don’t sleep. I keep moving. I’m more fatigued. Less functional.”
“The ban has done nothing but endanger poor elderly men and especially women.”
“I’m tired a lot. I have to move my personal belongings. I have to travel out of the downtown area each night. I can’t sleep and it affects my daily routines.”
City Councilwoman Susan Shepherd, who opposed the camping ban, agrees the city needs to address the increased challenges which the ban’s enforcement has placed on the homeless. “Denver’s Road Home has made progress adding shelter beds and other services within their resource constraints,” she stated, “but the scope of homelessness in Denver means that hundreds of people still need to sleep on the streets each night and are subject to the ban. As a compassionate city, we need to figure out how to respond to this reality and move forward guided by the voices of those most impacted by the ban.”
In its meeting with the City Council committee, DHOL will be presenting both short and long term recommendations based on the survey findings. Long term, a dedicated regular public fund is needed to assure that minimum appropriate housing is available for the homeless. In the short term the homeless, and especially underserved and particularly vulnerable groups (including couples, families with children, LGBT people, deeply troubled veterans, and those who are mentally or physically ill or have addiction problems) need a safe if minimal place to lay their heads and cover up until housing and services can be found for them. The place must have water to drink, a place to wash up, portable restrooms and safety.
DHOL members express confidence that, in addressing the needs of the homeless, the city will rally, as it has all along the “Road Home” path it started on, by responding to these emergency short term needs while continuing its work toward providing long range solutions. DHOL is also hopeful that this initial meeting with the City Council committee will begin a process of collaboration among all parties–including homeless residents themselves–aimed at increasing the health and vitality of the city and all its people.
The full report can be read at:
Denver Homeless Out Loud
Denver Homeless Out Loud works to ensure that Denver’s homeless community has access to public space, adequate services, and a political voice in the City of Denver. Visit us at http://denverhomelessoutloud.org.