Video by Unicorn Riot on Beloved Community Village Build https://vimeo.com/218386349
Beloved Community Tiny Home Village Building Starts Saturday May 20, 2017!!
Beloved Community Village, Denver’s First Tiny Home Village, construction will begin on Saturday May 20, 2017! This tiny home village will be at 3733 Walnut St and will have 11 tiny homes, a community space, a shower building, and bathrooms. The village will be home to 14 people who are currently homeless. The village will be run by the village residents themselves with partnership with an advisory council.
This tiny home village has been made legally possible for the first time ever in Denver after working with City planning and zoning departments to allow for this type of village. This support is a big step forward to enable common sense housing communities. However, current zoning requires the village to move locations every 6 months, continuing to force communities to move and will prevent planting roots. Ultimately, we seek to create zoning for permanent tiny home villages to support multiple ways of finding home and community.
This village is the creation of a new organization called Colorado Village Collaborative, a partnership between Denver Homeless Out Loud, The Interfaith Alliance of Colorado, Bayaud Enterprises, Beloved Community Mennonite Church, and village residents. Architectural plans and designs were provided by Radian Inc., Whiting-Turner will oversee construction, and Mennonite Disaster Services will oversee volunteers. The Village is made possible by more than 300 individuals, organizations, and businesses who provided funding, and who have signed up to help build.
Beloved Community Village is a remarkable feat of collaborative and persistent effort across many sectors of society. Given the absence of attainable housing for low or no income people in Denver and across the Nation, and given the use of laws to criminalize people for trying to survive in public spaces and push them “away” into farther away more hidden places in effort to hide homelessness, tiny home villages are one significant, unique means of creating fast, inexpensive, community based, environmentally friendly homes.
All are invited to visit the village being built over the next couple weeks. We currently have enough volunteers to build the village, but welcome support of coffee, snacks, or food for the workers. To donate please go to https://www.gofundme.com/denvers-first-tiny-home-village.
Thanks to all who made this possible! Homes for all!
Watch “What it’s like to be homeless in Denver”
Produced by 360 Media with Denver Homeless Out Loud
Thursday April 27 2017, the United States District Court of Colorado, Judge William J. Martinez, certified class action status for Denver homeless persons challenging the wide-spread and systemic constitutional deprivations known as the Denver Homeless Sweeps. It is one of the largest class actions of poor and dispossessed persons in US history.
“By granting class certification, the federal court recognized that the City of Denver has a policy focused on homeless persons,” said attorney Jason Flores-Williams. “A policy that many believe to be an immoral, unjust and unconstitutional war on the poor.”
The City of Denver, under the direction of Mayor Hancock, continues these Sweeps in effort to push homeless people out of sight into further corners and hidden places to pave the way for gentrification. Homeless people continue to have their property taken, leaving them with nothing to stay warm, and without critical paperwork and personal items.
This is a big day for all people experiencing homelessness in Denver, as the Federal Courts now recognize the wide-spread targeting of homeless persons.
More can be read on the class action lawsuit here https://denverhomelessoutloud.org/class-action-lawsuit/.
Our Fight for Right to Rest Just Grows Stronger as Committee Votes Against the Bill Again
On Wednesday April 19, 2017, the Local Government Committee of the Colorado State Legislature voted 5 to 8 against the Right to Rest Act – the right to sleep, sit, cover oneself, share food, sleep in your own vehicle.
After three years of bringing the Right to Rest Act to the Colorado State Legislature and having our rights – our humanity – voted down, our resolve, our movement, our power just grows. We know this is a long haul struggle. History has shown us that in order to succeed in overcoming discriminatory practices, communities must stand strong together and the fight takes years.
This vote against humanity came at the end of an 11 hour hearing including testimony from over 60 people supporting the Right to Rest and only 5 people who testified in opposition. Person after person supporting the right to rest testified to being threatened, having their belongings stolen and being forced by police to “move along.” Lawyers, business owners, service providers and faith leaders each spoke to the unconstitutional, dehumanizing and moral impacts of criminalizing existence. And person after person testified to how this bill does not create “special rights” for homeless people, but protects the rights of all people to stand, sit, lie down, cover oneself – exist – in public spaces.
The Right to Rest Act, introduced through the Western Regional Advocacy Project in Colorado, California, and Oregon, aims to end all laws and practices to push certain “unwanted” communities out of public space. Our county has a long history of racist, classist laws – Jim Crow, Anti-Okie, Sundown laws – used to push certain people out of public spaces and anti-homeless ordinances are just another example.
The Right to Rest hearing on Wednesday was a powerful demonstration of a people who will not be hidden, silenced, or treated as less than human. For the third year in a row we packed the committee room with a collective energy that will not go away, but rather continues to grow. As homeless and poor people, we know what is really going on in the streets. In closing comments Representative Lebsock, who voted yes, said “today we heard reality versus reporting.” Reality from people living on the streets, and reporting from city officials reporting numbers of shelter beds, housing units being developed, and money being spent. Reality was spoken loud and clear – “we will continue to exist and survive in public spaces no matter how much you try to hide us.”
The Representatives who voted NO against the Right to Rest justified their vote by expressing concern that this bill will create a “free-for-all” with homeless people sleeping and sitting everywhere, that there will be endless lawsuits against cities, that local municipalities need local control to use “tools” to deal with their homeless population, and that they want to “solve homelessness” not create rights. They had no shame in expressing their perception of the sight of visibly homeless people as “bad for business.” They had no shame in defending businesses and cities from the potential law suits they would face – never considering that instead they could just respect people’s rights.
Five Representatives voted YES for the Right to Rest this year. Their vote and words of support for a bill that simply asks we be allowed to sleep, sit, not have our blankets taken, are a sign of hope and humanity! We thank Reps Lebsock, Singer, Coleman, Exum, and Valdez! Furthermore, this bill would not be real without the incredible leadership and commitment of Reps Salazar and Melton sponsoring the Right to Rest three years in a row, standing strong against internal party division, and standing up for what is right!
Our work does not end. As homelessness will continue to persist with more housing budget cuts in sight, and while criminalization does absolutely nothing to actually end homelessness, we will remain right here, growing in numbers, demanding justice. We have no place left to go. We have no other choice but to fight for our rights to survive. Our solidarity with each other and strength in fight against our humanity only grows. Our fight continues right now and onward in the city councils, in the federal and local courts, back at the state capitol next year, and on the streets everyday!!
Watch Live Stream of most of the hearing by Unicorn Riot Here https://livestream.com/unicornriot/events/7291299
Right to Rest Act HB 17-1314 Will be Heard in Committee Wednesday!!
When: Wednesday April 19th
Where: State Capitol Building (200 E Colfax Ave – Colfax and Lincoln)
Rally 12pm West Steps
Hearing 1:30pm Room 271
TAKE ACTION NOW!
Denver, CO— On Wednesday April 19, 2017, the Colorado State Legislative Local Government Committee will be voting on the Right to Rest Act – HB 17-1314. This bill, sponsored by Representatives Salazar and Melton, would end the alarming trend of cities passing and enforcing laws that criminalize the basic civil rights of homeless individuals. The Right to Rest Act would, among other things, protect the rights of all 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 is about protecting all people’s human right to survive in public space and not be pushed “away” to nowhere.
This bill is being heard just two weeks after three people went on trial and were convicted for violation of Denver’s Unauthorized Urban Camping Ban -properly named Survival Ban – where the prosecution told defendant Randy Russell in cross examination, “You know it is illegal for you to survive in Denver.” This bill comes after a year of intensely escalated sweeps across Denver as well as sweeps in Pueblo, Colorado Springs, and many cities across Colorado. This bill comes after a lawsuit was filed and is under litigation against the city of Denver for the sweeps and seizure of property. This bill comes as housing prices are at an all time high in Denver and across the nation and government assistance for low-income housing has massively decreased. We cannot afford homes yet are criminalized for living homeless.
The Right to Rest Act (HB 17-1314) ends the criminalization of rest and accompanying violations of basic human and civil rights for all people.
This legislation protects the following rights and prohibits the enforcement of any local laws that violate these rights:
Right to move freely, rest, sleep and be protected in a public space.
Right to rest in public spaces and protect oneself from the elements in a non-obstructive manner
Right to reasonable expectation of privacy of your property in public space
Right to occupy a legally parked vehicle
Right to share food and eat in public
Wednesday April 19th rally at 12noon in front of the Capitol, hearing at 1:30pm in room 271. Survival while living without a home should never be deemed a crime.
Denver Homeless Out Loud
Right to Rest Hearing April 19!!
HB 17-1314, The Colorado Right to Rest Act is going to be heard and voted on in House Local Government Committee on Wednesday, April 19th at 1:30 in room 271, on the second floor of the State Capitol. We need you all to speak up! And BE THERE!
There will be food at the Rally at 12noon. The hearing might go late so if you can’t come until later, still come. The Capitol doors close at 5pm so it is hard to get in after that though.
Colorado state legislators Salazar and Melton introduce HB 17-1314 – The Colorado Right2Rest Act – for the third year. The Right2Rest Act is stronger, clearer, and more powerful! If HB 17-1314 passes this year – it will force the state of Colorado to abandon its practices of criminalizing homeless people for engaging in basic life-sustaining activities like sitting, lying, sleeping, resting and eating in public. The criminalization of rest must end if we are ever to turn the tide on our homelessness crisis.
Watch the camping ban in action https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=etCAymiuRdc
Follow These 2 Easy Steps to TAKE ACTION!
1) Send a letter of organizational support!
Click here for a sample letter.
2) Email and call the members of the Local Government Committee, and urge them to support HB 17-1314 , the Colorado Right2Rest Act
James Coleman firstname.lastname@example.org 303-866-2909 Democrat
Tony Exum email@example.com 303-866-3069 Democrat
Matt Gray firstname.lastname@example.org 303-866-4667 Democrat
Steve Lebsock email@example.com 303-866-2931 Democrat
Larry Liston firstname.lastname@example.org 303-866-2937 Republican
Hugh McKean email@example.com 303-866-2947 Republican
Clarice Navarro firstname.lastname@example.org 303-866-2905 Republican
Kim Ransom email@example.com 303-866-2933 Republican
Paul Rosenthal firstname.lastname@example.org 303-866-2910 Democrat
Jonathan Singer email@example.com 303-866-2780 Democrat
Dan Thurlow firstname.lastname@example.org 303-866-3068 Republican
Donald Valdez email@example.com 303-866-2916 Democrat
My name is ________ and I am calling to urge you to vote YES on the Right To Rest Act. You will be hearing HB 17-1314: Colorado Right To Rest Act in the Local Government Committee. This bill provides critical civil rights protections to ALL Coloradoans that every Coloradoan is able to meet the biological need of rest.
The practice of criminalizing poor and homeless people for engaging in basic life-sustaining activities like eating, sleeping, resting, and lying is unjust, cruel and entrenches people in homelessness. HB 17-1314 will allow homeless people more time and energy to access services, search for employment and apply for housing that would otherwise be spent responding to police harassment, tickets, courts and jail time. Please vote YES on HB 17-1314: the Colorado Right To Rest Act!
The Colorado Homeless Bill of Rights Organizing Team
Homeless People Go on Trial for Surviving April 4th, 2017
When: April 4th (and likely 5th and 6th), 8am-5pm(ish) 2017
Where: Lindsay Flanigan Courthouse (520 w Colfax Ave Denver CO 80204)
On April 4th, 2017 at 8am the Lindsay Flanigan Courthouse Jerry Burton, Terese Howard and Randy Russell will be the first people in Denver to ever take an unauthorized camping ban ticket (more accurately named “survival ban”) to trial. These three co-defendants, victims to this cruel, arbitrary, and unconstitutional law, are just three of the hundreds of homeless people who are victim to this law every day as police drive around telling homeless people covered with blankets to “move along.” Between the three co-defendants, they have five “survival ban” tickets, all from November 28th. These tickets were given to them for using blankets or tents to survive as they all had done hundreds of times before and continued to do afterward as anyone must to survive outside without a home. The law makes it illegal for a person to “use any form of protection from the elements other than one’s clothing” anywhere in the city of Denver.
The Denver government is spending massive resources to prosecute Burton, Howard, and Russell, including calling 33 Police Officers as witnesses in the trial. According to the law, the co-defendants are facing up to $999 and a year in jail for the crime of using blankets to try to stay warm on a cold winter night. Buron and Russell both had their blankets, sleeping bags and tents taken “as evidence” of the crime of camping – leaving them with no gear to survive the freezing winter night and driving Burton to the hospital. Shortly after this, Mayor Hancock publicly directed the Police Department to cease confiscating survival gear for the safety of homeless people sleeping on winter nights. Yet the government is still prosecuting these individuals.
Attorney for the case, Jason Flores-Williams, describes this prosecution saying, “When you think that not one senior executive from Wall Street was prosecuted for the financial crisis, but here we are prosecuting three poor people for just trying to survive – tells you all you need to know about justice in America.”
The government has tried to make these co-defendants’ cases out to be rare and a response to a protest. These are lies. While the government has avoided giving “survival ban” tickets (likely to avoid trials like this which put the unconstitutionality of the law at question and take massive taxpayer resources), 24 people have been ticketed for the ban and thousands have been forced to move along and had belongings taken. Burton and Russell were first ticketed on November 28th 2016 at 27th and Arapahoe where they had been surviving for months. After hundreds of homeless people, including Burton and Russell, had been forced to move from the areas they had found to gather for safety and protection, they, along with about 20 other homeless people who had been displaced that day, moved to city hall where they hoped to be allowed to sleep. This was not a protest – this was survival.
Burton, Howard, and Russell have pleaded not guilty and will be bringing their cases together as a joint trial, represented by attorney Jason Flores-Williams. As the government, under the direction of Mayor Hancock, uses our tax dollars to prosecute these cases of public survival while homeless, we will continue to stand up in the courts, city council, state capitol, and on the streets to bring this injustice to an end.
Come witness this monumental trial starting April 4th at 8am – 5pm and likely continuing on April 5th and 6th.
Contact: Denver Homeless Out Loud
Court Prosecutes Homeless People for Surviving In line with the City’s Efforts
Report from Camping Ban Motions Hearing: 2/16/17
The new trial date is scheduled for April 5th, 2017. Mark your calendar.
Yesterday there was a dispositive motions hearing in the Camping Ban criminal cases where homeless and poor people are being charged with crimes for sleeping on the streets with blankets and shelter in Winter. The hearing was noteworthy for the bias and prejudice shown toward Defendants by the Court.
1)At the start of the hearing, prior to any argument, the Judge looked at Defense counsel and said: “The one thing I don’t want is any drama from you, Mr. Flores-Williams.” Defense counsel had never practiced in this court.
2)Without allowing any substantive legal argument, the Court ruled that it was permissible for theProsecution to file a 34-person witness list eight days after the court’s deadline and only two weeks prior to trial.
3)The Court then Excluded all of Defense’s expert witnesses without hearing or testimony, saying that “Homelessness has nothing to do with this case.”
4)The Court then ordered Defense counsel to limit all arguments so that no argument or line of questioning could be construed at trial as an attempt to persuade the jury that the Camping Ban ordinance is itself unjust.
5)At this juncture, defense counsel cited to Fed R. 37(c)and its CO equivalent concerning the prejudice resulting from late disclosure of witnesses. No court response. Defense counsel then quoted from sections from Chambers v. Mississippi, a landmark 1973 civil rights case concerned with due process in which the overall prejudice to defendants becomes so cumulative and egregious that defendants fair trial rights are eviscerated. No response.
6)The Court then took up a Motion from the prosecution that does not exist. A “Res Gestae/404(b) Motion” that wrongfully conflates two different types of evidentiary concepts and underlying analyses. Res Gestae is concerned with the natural narrative of a case. Example: someone robs a liquor store, the fact that they stopped at two bars and to pick up their weapon on the way to the robbery. 404(b)has to do with a very specific set of factors that a defendant leaves at various crime scenes as identifiers. Not to be rude, but the classic example is when serial killer leaves identifiers at numerous crime scenes showing his m.o. The court conflated these two very different legal concepts and construed the “Res Gestae/404b” motion as allowing the prosecution to offer proof of Defendants’ mental states, but not the fact that defendants were homeless. (If this seems like 2+2=5, Wintston, they are….)(The court also disregarded that the motion was filed late and that it was amended without leave of court.)
7)Defense counsel then objected to the fact that the court had asked the prosecution for their jury instructions without asking defense for their jury instructions, and now was reverse engineering the court’s ruling from the prosecutions jury instructions. Objection overruled.
8)Defense counsel made oral motion for the judge to recuse, i.e. that he Judge take herself off the case for bias against defendants. Denied.
9)Defense counsel cited to several cases concerning due process rights, wrongful exclusion of defense witnesses, and the right to fairly address criminal accusations. No response.
10)Defense requested findings of law and fact – none given.
11)Defense counsel asked for a stay of the proceeding to file an interlocutory appeal regarding the court’s rulings.
12)Court stated that interlocutory orders cannot be appealed from municipal court so that none of the court’s decisions are reviewable.
13)Court ruled that the prosecution’s disclosure of 95 police body cameras three days prior to the hearing was permissible, then scolded defense for not reviewing the 95 videos prior to hearing. Defense counsel, concerned that the court would issue sanctions if he responded, had no comment.
We are now seeking an interlocutory appeal of the Court’s rulings.
The trial is scheduled for April 5th, 2017. Mark your calendar.
Denver Homeless Out Loud
Motions Hearing in Continued Prosecution of Homeless People for “Camping Ban”
When: February 16th, 2017 2:30pm
Where: Lindsay Flanagan Court House
On February 16th, 2017 2:30pm at the Lindsay Flanagan Court House Jerry Burton, Terese Howard and Randy Russell will have a motions hearing for their case under the changes of “unauthorized camping” which is defined as “using any form of protection from the elements other than one’s clothing.” These three individuals are facing, according to the law, up to $999 or a year in jail for the crime of using blankets to try to stay warm on a cold winter night. The city has dedicated massive resources to continue to prosecute these individuals for using protection from the cold weather. The city feels so entitled in its treatment of the poor and homeless that it submitted a 34 person witness list 7 days after the court deadline and only two weeks prior to trial. This motions hearing will determine if the city’s witness list, 33 of which are police, will be accepted or denied.
After these viral videos surfaced of police taking Burton and Russell’s blankets and tents “as evidence” of their crime of camping first at 27th and Arapahoe where they had been surviving for months and second at city hall where they moved in front of the Mayor’s office with no where else to go; and after lawyers informed the city they would be filing a temporary restraining order against the city of Denver for putting people’s lives at risk by seizing homeless people’s blankets in freezing weather, Mayor Hancock gave a public directive to the Police Department to stop taking homeless people’s blankets and survival gear when enforcing the camping ban (but only until April when apparently the Mayor thinks that people won’t need any blankets or protection to sleep outdoors).
In spite of the Mayor’s unintentional admission that the camping ban is putting people’s lives at risk by taking their survival gear, the city is still actively enforcing the camping ban – forcing people to move and hide around the city in what could be aptly termed a game of “homeless whack-a-mole.”
The problem is this is not a game – this is people’s lives.
Burton, Howard, and Russell have pleaded not guilty and will be bringing their cases to trial together as a joint trial, represented by attorney Jason Flores-Williams. As the City, under the direction of the Mayor, uses our tax dollars to prosecute these cases of public survival while homeless, we will continue to stand up in the courts, city council, state capitol, and on the streets to bring this injustice to an end.
Come to the motions hearing on Thursday February 16th.
Denver Homeless Out Loud