Month: October 2015

Tiny Homes destroyed by city 10 arrested

Press Release

Contact: Marcus Hyde (303) 507-8065

info@denverhomelessoutloud.org

Last night, Saturday, Oct 24th, about 70 Denver Police Department and Denver Sheriff’s Department officers, including swat units, under orders from Mayor Michael Hancock, descended on Sustainability Park and arrested 10 community members who, along with many others, were in the process of setting up a tiny home village to be occupied and managed by houseless people. The arrests, on charges of trespassing, were followed by the destruction and removal of several tiny homes which the group had constructed for houseless community members to live in. The group, led by Denver Homeless Out Loud and composed of houseless people and supporters, had been constructing tiny homes and trying to find a location for the village for over a year. But due to zoning and code constraints they have not been able to find a legal place to put the houses.

Contrary to reporting by Channel 9 News, this action and the establishment of Resurrection Village have nothing to do with Occupy Denver.

On Saturday, during a permaculture action day event, the group brought tiny homes that they had built or were in the process of building onto the Sustainability Park site. They announced their intentions to establish the tiny homes village, which they named Resurrection Village (after the similarly named tent city which Martin Luther King Jr’s Poor People’s Human Rights Campaign built in Washington DC to demand higher wages and access to decent housing). Among the goals which the group put forth in conducting this action were providing low-cost, safe and sustainable housing for members of the unhoused community, gaining the right to put up tiny homes in Denver, ending the criminalization of homelessness, and maintaining urban farms.

In explaining why they had chosen this site on which to establish the village, the group recounted how the Denver Housing Authority, which owns the property, has torn down hundreds of low income housing units, and after allowing the Urban Farming Cooperative to use the land for a few years, has agreed this year to sell the land to a private developer, who will build multifamily housing that will support gentrification in Curtis Park but be far beyond the reach of those for whom the Denver Housing Authority is supposed to exist.

In the afternoon, while constructing tiny homes on-site, the group was visited by a representative of Denver Housing Authority, as well as by the developer. By 9pm, with a police helicopter circling overhead, the officers made the arrests and Denver Public Works destroyed, threw into dump trucks, and carted away the homes that had been so badly needed by houseless people and so lovingly constructed by those who would have lived there and their supporters.

Arrested were Terese Howard, Benjamin Donlon, Karen Seed, Audrey Haynes, Andrew Tate Viviano, Raymond Lyall,  Coby Wikselaar, Scott Hauck, Stephanie Marraro, and DJ Razee.

We will not give up! We will keep fighting to defend people’s right to housing. For the sake of the future residents of Resurrection Village and those who were arrested, we must all stand together now! Stay tuned for updates on this story and information about how you can support our next steps in this struggle! 

To see all the live streamed footage of this event, go to http://livestream.com/unicornriot/events/4451996.

For more information and photos, go to https://www.facebook.com/DenverHomelessOutLoud

Click here to read the press release that Denver Homeless released about Resurrection Village yesterday.

#BREAKING TINY HOME PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Denver Homeless Out Loud

PRESS RELEASE

October 25th, 2015

Contact: (720) 940-5291

info@denverhomeless.org

Resurrection Village For The People!

Today we announce the opening of Resurrection Village, a tiny home village built by and for people without housing. Hundreds of people came out to Sustainability Park in the Curtis Park neighborhood of Denver to build a tiny home village where three urban farms are being displaced to build an apartment development, and where in 1999 hundreds of residents were evicted from low-income housing on the site.

Resurrection Village is a working model for alternative, democratic, self-determined housing.  Designed for functionality as well as beauty, our village aims to meet not only the needs of our bodies, but the longings of our souls. We are weary of trying to fit into a broken and dehumanizing system in order to find shelter and safety. Winter is coming, and we can’t wait any longer for the bureaucrats and politicians to take action. Today we are reclaiming our public lands and our right to survive in a place we can call home.

The urban farmers collaborative did not know or consent to our plans to build a tiny home village and stay on this land. We simply decided this land must be for affordable homes and for the people and that we cannot wait for permission.

We are in a housing crisis. Denver’s record high rents and lack of affordable housing–the Auditor’s office has estimated a shortfall of 26,000 units–have literally left us out in the cold. We have to exist somewhere. Because there are no suitable options for those of us who work low-wage jobs, are unable to work, or can’t find work, we have decided to create options for ourselves. Tiny homes are an inexpensive, ecologically conscious, tangible and dignified alternative to living outside or trying to hustle a spot in the overcrowded shelters. Tiny home villages–such as Dignity Village in Portland, Oregon–have been used across the country to provide a solution to homelessness that works. The first community of its kind, Dignity Village was founded in 2001 and provides housing for 60 formerly homeless residents. While it costs $20.92 a night in Portland to house an individual in an emergency shelter, Dignity Village can house the same person for only $4.28.

We are in a crisis of humanity. In Denver and all across the country, laws have been passed that make it illegal to conduct necessary acts of survival, including lying down and protecting oneself from the elements with anything other than one’s clothing. When you lose your housing in Denver and have to live in public space, you are no longer respected as a human being with basic rights. You are continually “moved along,” harassed, ticketed, incarcerated, and treated as less than human due to being homeless.

Recent statements by the Federal Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Urban Development (HUD) call for an end to the criminalization of homelessness and put pressure on cities to end these laws. The Homeless Bill of Rights Campaign is growing in California, Oregon, and Colorado as we work together to pass the Right to Rest Act, giving us the right to be human. A tiny home village not only makes fiscal sense, it’s a more dignified alternative than treating someone like a criminal.

We are in a crisis of homelessness. Across the country, including in Los Angeles, Portland,  and Hawaii, city governments are declaring homelessness a “state of emergency.” Here in Denver homelessness is growing faster than anyone can count as housing prices rise to record levels, 4000 new people arrive in Denver each month, and the city puts millions more into jails than affordable housing. We need homes not jails.

No significant legislative change has ever occurred in American history that did not require the people directly affected to become organized and demand better treatment for themselves. For example, the New Deal housing and jobs programs were a direct result of powerful social movements, including Hooverville protests and the work of the ‘Bonus Army’–in which thousands of veterans and their families built a tent city on the National Mall in Washington D.C. and demanded access to governmental relief programs and decent housing. ppehrc resurrection city.jpg

Thirty six years later, Martin Luther King’s Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign sought to carry on the legacy of the Bonus Army, by building a tent city–called ‘Resurrection City’–on the Washington Mall, to demand better wages and access to decent housing. After King’s assassination, momentum waned for the Poor People’s Campaign, but still, in 1968 over three thousand people occupied the National  Mall until they were forced to leave six weeks later.

Our naming this village ‘Resurrection Village’ is meant to honor the many who have brought us this far, and to remind ourselves that this struggle will only be won if people experiencing poverty demand justice for themselves.

Sustainability Park is a property in downtown Denver owned by the Denver Housing Authority (DHA). In the 1950s, DHA constructed affordable housing on this land, providing homes for hundreds of residents. In 1999, after years of budget cuts, the housing projects were in need of maintenance and repair. Instead of investing in maintaining the projects, DHA evicted its residents and the place was levelled through a Federal HOPE VI program. (Hope VI, started to revitalize ‘severely distressed’ public housing into mixed income developments, resulted in the forced displacement of tens of thousands of families and the loss of large amounts of guaranteed low-income housing nationwide.)

In 2009, after years of lying unused, the land was turned into a ‘conceptual’ park named ‘Sustainability Park,’ within which experiments in sustainable building practices and an urban farm could be developed. The Denver Urban Farmers Collaborative accepted DHA’s invitation to build their farm and programs there. During this time, DHA published reports and communications regarding their plans to develop affordable housing on the land in the future.

However, in 2015, DHA revealed its plan to sell Sustainability Park, as well as the adjoining city block (two blocks total) to Treehouse Development and Westfield Co., to develop into for-sale non-affordable housing.  According to current real estate reports, smaller units will be available from the upper 200ks, and larger homes for 600-700k. Both DHA and Treehouse argue that the future development will be made up of eco-friendly housing, with vague promises of  retaining aspects of growing food.

DHA claims that this contract will create revenue for future affordable housing developments. The developers also say they have met their quota of affordable housing because, as required by the Inclusionary Housing Ordinance, the development will make 10% of units “affordable,” which in this case means that there will be 22 units for individuals making between $22,400 and $44,800 a year and able to buy a home. Not even these token 22 units would be affordable for the hundreds of low income people who were kicked out of their homes on this land 10 and 20 years ago. Meanwhile, DHA has rejected our proposals to create a tiny home pilot project anywhere on the public land that they steward.

No amount of ‘greenwashing’ and empty promises can hide the plain truth: Public assets should not be used to  incentivize upscale market-rate housing. Urban farmers and low-income people should not be displaced for the sake of economic development right in the midst of Denver’s worst housing crisis ever.

So, with a lack of other options, we are taking public land back for the public.

info@denverhomelessoutloud.org

www.denverhomelessoutloud.org

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Support a Tiny Home Village in Denver Today!

Support our crowdfunding campaign for Little Denver TODAY!

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The campaign can be found here: https://campaigns.communityfunded.com/projects/denverhomelessoutloud/little-denver-a-tiny-home-village/

Little Denver is a project being built by, with, and for people currently without housing in Denver, CO. We seek to create affordable, sustainable alternatives to the current housing system. Tiny homes, residential structures between 100 and 200 square feet in size, is what we propose. We seek to build these homes and place them wherever makes sense. Our vision is to create a community of micro-houses grouped grouped together in a Tiny Home Village.

We are in a housing crisis. Denver rent is at a record high and keeps getting higher.  Continued cutbacks for affordable housing funding and maintenance, combined with the rising cost of housing in Denver, has made housing more scarce and competitive than ever. Today in the Denver Metro Area there are at least 6130* individuals without housing; the largest reason cited for this is an inability to pay the rent or mortgage in the current market. We have to exist somewhere, and because there are little suitable options to access affordable housing if you work a low-wage job, or are unable to work, we have to create options for ourselves and defend our right to exist in public space. A Tiny Home Village is a cheap, ecologically conscious, communal, tangible and dignified alternative to being criminalized for surviving in public spaces, or trying to hustle a spot in the overcrowded shelter system. 

The Economics

Type of Program Cost to House a Person for one Night
Tiny Home Village Housing (Dignity Village Portland, OR) $4.28
Warming Center $12.59
Emergency Shelter $20.92
Rental Assistance $24.60
Permanent Supportive Housing $32.37
Motel Voucher $54.00
Transitional Housing $66.56
Prison or Jail Time in Colorado $83.22

What we need now is a small fund to build several homes. We are asking for $8000, which will be used to construct two types of micro-housing: Conestoga Huts, an insulated dome-like structure that prices at about $700, and Tiny Homes, traditional four-walled wooden homes which cost about $2500. If we get to $10,000, we will be able to build another Tiny Home or two more Conestoga Huts. If we can even get to $12,000, we can build up to four Tiny Homes! These will be used to provide life-saving shelter for someone through the winter.

The question we get most often is “where will you put them”? Due to the prohibitive cost of land in Denver, the tiny homes group has been so far unable to access a good sized area for the village. However, to move forward into the winter of 2015, at a time when so many are seeking shelter, we have decided to start building houses and finding spaces for them wherever we can, while simultaneously pursuing avenues of accessing larger, publicly owned plots of land. We hope this endeavor can provide a clear model for what they look like and pave the way forward to accessing land.

We will be launching the campaign on Wednesday, October 7th! It is being launched through Community Funded, a locally-owned, locally controlled platform that takes zero fees from the money we raise. 

The campaign can be found here: https://campaigns.communityfunded.com/projects/denverhomelessoutloud/little-denver-a-tiny-home-village/

–Can you contribute to sponsor a House for someone in need?

–Can you share the campaign with your networks?

Please let us know. We appreciate and are so grateful for your support.

In gratitude,

Little Denver and Denver Homeless Out Loud

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COPS CAN’T TICKET YOU FOR PANHANDLING!

COPS CAN’T TICKET YOU FOR PANHANDLING!

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Last week–as a result of a Federal District Court ruling that a Grand Junction panhandling ordinance is UNCONSTITUTIONAL (because it violates a person’s free speech rights)–Denver Police Chief Robert White instructed all Denver Police Department officers to stop ticketing people under the Denver Panhandling Ordinance (Section 38-132)!

This means cops SHOULD NOT ticket you for sitting or standing on public space asking for money, or flying a sign to do so, EVEN IF IT’S:

# Near a public toilet (public toilet?? What’s that???)

# Near an ATM machine

# Near a bus or shuttle stop

# Near the entrance to a building

# After dark

# Near an outdoor patio where food or drinks are served

 

BUT–You CAN still be ticketed if, in the course of panhandling, you:

* Touch or cause physical contact with someone against their will

* Interfere with the safe or free passage of a pedestrian or vehicle

* Use violent or threatening gestures or abusive language toward someone

* Along with others, act in an intimidating way as you approach or follow someone

* Remain on private property after being asked to stop or leave

* Are on or near a street or highway

City Council will be reviewing the current (suspended) panhandling ordinance and may make changes to eliminate the UNCONSTITUTIONAL parts. We will keep you updated!

Meanwhile…if you DO get harassed or ticketed or told to stop panhandling, in violation of Chief White’s order–LET US KNOW by stopping in at our office at 2260 California St (the purple Centro Humanitario building), or by contacting us at:

720.940.5291 — info@denverhomelessoutloud.org

 

AFTER DOJ RULING, HUD MANDATE TO CITIES VERY CLEAR: STOP CRIMINALIZING HOMELESSNESS OR LOSE FUNDING

AFTER DOJ RULING, HUD MANDATE TO CITIES VERY CLEAR: STOP CRIMINALIZING HOMELESSNESS OR LOSE FUNDING

“The Cost of Criminalizing Homelessness Just Went Up By $1.9 Billion, HUDFunding Requirement Building on Department of Justice Enforcement” reads thepress release of the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty  (NLCHP). (http://www.nlchp.org/press_releases/2015.09.18_HUD_NOFA_criminalization)

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is the second federal agency to put its clout behind the decriminalization of homelessness within the last month. In doing so, they overrule the opinions of local politicians, including Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and Denver Councilman Albus Brooks, and their agents in Denver’s Road Home, who deny that criminalizing sleeping through unauthorized camping bans and quality of life policing violates constitutional rights. Denver’s illegal and discriminatory policies could cost the metro area over $20 Million in HUDdollars. (https://www.hudexchange.info/resource/reportmanagement/published/CoC_AwardComp_CoC_CO-503-2014_CO_2014.pdf)

“This is about compassion,” said Councilman Brooks as he introduced the Unauthorized Camping Ban to Denver City Council in 2012. At that time Denver already had a shortage of thousands of low-income housing units and a shelter system capable of housing just 7% of the city’s homeless residents. Three years later, Denver has not substantially increased its low income housing stock or homeless services, rents have risen astronomically, and police harassment continues to be a daily reality for Denver’s unhoused community. In a  2014 NLCHP study of 187 major U.S. cities, Denver was one of only 26% that have sleeping bans so harsh as to outlaw sleeping on all public property. (http://www.nlchp.org/documents/No_Safe_Place) And in a 2015 Denver Homeless Out Loud (DHOL) survey of over 500 houseless residents, 70% reported being harassed, cited or arrested for sleeping in public. (http://issuu.com/denverhomelessoutloud/docs/report-final/4?e=7722969/12234987)

By requiring local “Continuum of Care” consortiums vying for a share of the  $1.9 billion in homelessness assistance funding to explain how their communities are combatting the criminalization of homelessness, HUD went on record with its opposition to this shameful and counterproductive national trend.(http://nationalhomeless.org/hud-puts-teeth-into-effort-to-stop-criminalizing-homeless-people/) This action follows the US Department of Justice’s (DOJ)August 6th statement in a Boise, ID court case that camping bans violate the 8th Amendment’s prohibition on “cruel and unusual punishment.” (http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/justice-department-files-brief-address-criminalization-homelessness)

HUD‘s new funding application guidelines will hit communities that discriminate against homeless people squarely in the pocketbook. Communities stand to lose up to two rating points if they cannot demonstrate that they have “implemented specific strategies that prevent criminalization of homelessness.” As the NLCHP stated in its press release on the HUD move (cited above), “In the extremely competitive funding process, Continuums’ ability to fully respond to this question…could be the difference between receiving funding and not.”

In response, the city of Vancouver, Washington has already repealed its camping ban, leading the charge to remove illegal bans from the books. To some of the business leaders who opposed the change, Mayor Tim Leavitt admitted, “We have to do this because we’re not going to win taking on the Supreme Court.”(http://www.columbian.com/news/2015/sep/14/vancouver-oks-overnight-camping-in-public-places/) And closer to home, Colorado Springs City Council President Pro Tem Jill Gaebler said in supporting a move to delay a vote on a proposed sit-lie ordinance, “…I think we should take the time to review whatever HUD is proposing so we don’t lose those funds.” (http://gazette.com/proposed-sit-lie-law-now-following-idea-of-lone-opponent-on-colorado-springs-city-council/article/1559991.)

Will these recent federal actions lead Denver to change its policies to restore basic human rights and focus on “homes not handcuffs”? For nearly three years, DHOL has urged our city council to repeal the Denver Camping Ban and other “quality of life” crimes, invest in affordable and low-income housing, and work to repair our city’s reputation as the place that punishes the poor for their poverty. We presented the Council with statistically relevant reports concerning the negative effects of the camping ban (http://issuu.com/denverhomelessoutloud/docs/surveyreport), as well as the U.S. Inter-Agency Council on Homelessness (USICH) manual entitled, “Searching Out Solutions: Constructive Alternatives to the Criminalization of Homelessness.” (http://usich.gov/resources/uploads/asset_library/RPT_SoS_March2012.pdf)

Countless social workers, homeless service providers and advocates, the USICH, the ACLU, and even the United Nations (http://www.nlchp.org/INT_CCPR_COC_USA_16838_E.pdf) have also argued that criminalizing necessary acts of survival–such as sleeping and resting–is not only cruel, but also costly to taxpayers and ineffective at curbing homelessness. Yet our city council has consistently ignored all of us, refusing to consider modifying or repealing any of these harmful laws and policies.

Last year, House Representative Joe Salazar ran the “Right to Rest Act” bill. This bill, written by Western Regional Advocacy Project together with Denver Homeless Out Loud, would have banned local municipalities from passing unconstitutional ordinances against poor and homeless people, and overturned the current laws in place. Before the law was voted down in committee, the City of Denver lobbied heavily against it through Director of Denver’s Crime Prevention and Control Commission representative Regina Huerter, who argued, “…So I think there’s a bit of a semantics in there about criminalizing homelessness, because I do not believe that we are criminalizing homelessness….”

Well Ms Huerter, the Department of Justice and HUD beg to differ.

Unless Denver’s leaders change their ways, they will have no answer to HUD‘s questions, and will put the housing and services of both current and future beneficiaries of HUD funding in jeopardy. We invite our current city council, the mayor and Denver’s Road Home to work together with people experiencing homelessness to overturn these mean spirited and discriminatory laws and advocate for “The Right to Rest Act” in 2016. This bill would protect people’s rights to rest without fear of harassment, help redirect scarce resources toward real solutions to homelessness–and protect our federal funding for homeless assistance services and housing.

Denver Homeless Out Loud — 720-940-5291 —info@denverhomelessoutloud.org