Denver Anti-Homeless Law Part of National Pandemic
Press Statement on Newly Passed Criminalization Bill
Press Type: Press Release Associated Program: Civil Rights
The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty condemns the passage Monday night of legislation banning "urban camping" by a 9-4 vote of the Denver City Council. Despite warnings by experts about the negative consequences of criminalizing homelessness -- and despite having once been homeless himself -- Mayor Michael Hancock is expected to sign the bill into law.
Denver's shelters are already overwhelmed, so for many, there will be no alternative to arrest. According to Denver's Road Home, even if the city doubled its shelter capacity, that still wouldn't be enough to meet the increased need.
This is only the latest in what is now a national pandemic. As detailed in our November 2011, national report, Criminalizing Crisis, cities across the country are criminalizing homelessness and poverty. Just last month, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness and the Department of Justice published a report condemning criminalization and recommending constructive alternatives that help people move off the streets.
In national context, the Denver law is among the most far-reaching, prohibiting sleeping with any cover besides clothes on public or private property-anywhere in the city, at all times of day and night.
Criminalizing homelessness is a misguided, inhumane response that wastes scarce public resources. It may also violate the civil and human rights of homeless people. Instead, cities should focus their efforts and resources on permanent housing, which actually solves the problem and is more cost effective than punishing people for basic life activities like sleeping in public, when they have nowhere else to go.
- Maria Foscarinis, Executive Director
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