April 15 Hearing for Colorado Right to Rest Act!

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Update: our hearing date has been changed to the 15th; and the location of the Rally has changed to Lincoln Park (Lincoln and Colfax)

Join us for the Right to Rest Act Rally and Hearing!

Date: Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Time and Location:

Rally: 8am, Lincoln Park (Lincoln and Colfax)

Hearing: When regular session ends (sometime in the morning), Legislative Services Building (200 E 14th Ave, Denver)

Colorado — On April 15, 2015, the Colorado State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee of the State legislature will be hearing HB 15-1264, known as the “Right to Rest Act.” Prior to the hearing, at 8am, a rally will be held in Lincoln Park to remind our legislators all people need the right to rest!

Representatives Salazar and Melton will introduce legislation to end the alarming trend of cities passing laws that criminalize the basic civil rights of homeless individuals. The Right to Rest Act would, among other things, protect the rights of homeless people to move freely, rest, have privacy of one’s belonging, and eat in public space as well as protect their right to occupy a legally parked motor vehicle. The many laws across Colorado which infringe on these rights would be rendered null and void.

This bill will “allow people the right to rest without harassment from police and without ordinances that violate civil and constitutional rights,” the bill’s Sponsor Representative Salazar explained at the Right to Rest Festival held on February 2nd. “You better believe homeless people are being discriminated against. So many ordinances are being passed against homelessness that violate people’s rights, and this has become a statewide concern.”

Denver Homeless Out Loud (DHOL), as a member of Western Regional Advocacy Project (WRAP), is leading the campaign for the Right to Rest Act in Colorado together with partner organizations across the state. In a coordinated campaign, California, Oregon, and Colorado are running the Right to Rest Act in their state legislatures this session.

Here in Colorado, low estimates count over 16,000 people who are homeless, while the schools alone count 23,000 homeless children. Cities across Colorado are increasingly enacting and enforcing laws which punish people for doing what any person must do to survive–even though the extreme lack of affordable housing is forcing more and more people out of housing and into living in public spaces.

The Colorado Homeless People’s Rights Survey, conducted by DHOL and partner organizations across the state, documents the experiences of 431 homeless people in 10 Colorado cities. This survey shows that 70% of respondents have been criminalized for sleeping, 64% for sitting/lying down, and 50% for loitering. Also, 60% have had their belongings taken by police or city employees. A similar survey done in Denver in 2012 found that 37% of respondents chose not to cover up against the elements in order to avoid violating the camping ban and being confronted by police.

But people’s voices speak louder than statistics. Here’s what one unhoused community member said about his efforts to survive in public space:

“One time, I was sitting at a bus stop. My feet were tired. I’d gotten off from a landscaping job and I couldn’t walk any further. I’d been up all night….A police officer approached me and told me to ‘move on’ and that I couldn’t camp here….I guess I was moving too slow….He put me in handcuffs….The other cop turned my backpack upside down and dumped it out. When they got done, he told me to ‘pick up this crap and get out.’ I had all my fresh laundered clothes in there and my water. I picked up my stuff and moved on….This stuff goes on every day.”

By ending the criminalization of rest and accompanying violations of basic human and civil rights, HB 15-1264 would encourage the diversion of expenditures from citing and jailing people for resting in public spaces to efforts aimed at preventing and ending homelessness.

To make a serious dent in the number of Coloradans facing homelessness, we must prioritize our efforts at the federal, state and local levels to provide affordable housing for all people who need it. At the same time, our humanity and common sense impel us to immediately end the cruel, costly, ineffective and unconstitutional practice of criminalizing people for performing necessary acts of survival in public places. That is what the Right to Rest Act is designed to do, and why the Colorado Legislature should pass it.

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