Urban camping ban heats up packed city council committee meeting
|To raise awareness against the ban, Denver's Family of Love brought food and flyers to Triangle Park last Saturday.|
"Other cities don't have these kind of provisions that we have in our ordinance," Broadwell says of the section's language. (It was taken verbatim from Denver's sit-lie ordinance, which was itself inspired by legislation in Seattle and Philadelphia.) "We don't even have these kinds of provisions in our ordinances."
In creating Denver's draft, Broadwell said he worked with Brooks to guarantee that it is a reaction to the behavior of those who break the law and not to their financial or social statuses. This means it is not intended to target Occupy Denver or the city's homeless population, though many if not most of those who find fault with its message are motivated by its implications for the city's homeless residents.
Reality remains a dominant concern. Although the ban is supported by Mayor Michael Hancock, Councilman Paul Lopez questioned the city's ability to finance the additional resources it lacks in order to create alternative shelter options for those who would be banned from the streets. "As of today, if every person who came in off the street required a shelter, we do not have that," Milliner says. "But we didn't have that when we enforced sit-lie. The question then becomes, 'Do we not do anything because we can't do everything?'"
Reactions to the proposed ordinance were mixed, as they have been for months. While the Colorado Coalition For the Homeless urges a move away from what Parvensky called actions to criminalize the homeless, representatives of the business community support its potential to boost the city's image and cut down costs to property owners. "It's a strain," says Tami Door, president of the Downtown Denver Partnership, about urban camping. "It's seriously impacting business and the perception of our community when there's mass camping in our city center."
While Occupy Denver spoke out against the ban, urging compassion instead of legislation, those who protect the movement's longtime home staunchly refuted that position. Lindy Eichenbaum Lent, executive director of the Civic Center Conservancy, argued that city parks and public property are not built for habitation. She cited recent headlines regarding scabies, drug distribution and assault charges inside of Civic Center Park as evidence.
"Park curfews alone do not prevent camping because sidewalks are not addressed," Eichenbaum Lent says, continuing to state that denying the ban would serve as an advertisement for residents to use Sloan's Lake, Cheeseman Park and other public property as "overflow shelters."
In the coming month, the topic will return to city council chambers on several occasions across committees. Next Saturday, organizers will reach out to the Inter-Neighborhood Cooperation, followed by a meeting with the Homeless Commission and attention from the council's Health, Safety, Education & Services Committee. Although the public was not permitted to address the council today, one thing is clear: Interested parties will need some time to do so.
Councilwoman Susan Shepherd referred to the currently allotted public hearing slot, one hour of time on April 30, as "completely inadequate." Check back for further updates.
Read the current draft below:
Denver Camping Ordinance Draft
More from our Politics archive: "Urban camping ban proposal mean-spirited, possibly unconstitutional, says ACLU."