Sniagrab camping should not be compared to homelessness, says Mayor Michael Hancock
Denver allows camping for shoppers but not for homeless people with nowhere to go. At least that was last week's message from Occupy Denver during protests about allowing Sports Authority shoppers to camp out for bargains months after the city began enforcing its urban camping ban, which prohibits the homeless from sleeping outside.
Big photos below.
The response from Mayor Michael Hancock? His spokeswoman says this specific permit shouldn't be compared to the city's overall homelessness-related policies.
For a handful of Occupy Denver members, last week's annual Sniagrab event, which find Sports Authority offering Labor Day bargains to shoppers who Sline up and camp out days in advance -- was the first time since the camping ban went into effect that they were able to legally sleep outside. Some Occupy members even encouraged some of the city's homeless residents to sleep outside the Broadway and 10th Avenue store.
At the protest, Occupy Denver representatives said the decision to permit Sniagrab campers clearly exemplified their ongoing battle to fight the city's hypocritical support of corporations over people -- and, in this case, shoppers over the homeless.
Sam Levin Occupy Denver at Sniagrab last week.
After we wrote about their protests, we reached out to the mayor's office, asking if Mayor Hancock had a response to Occupy's criticisms. Here's the full statement sent to us by Amber Miller, press secretary for Hancock:
Sports Authority applied for and received a street occupancy permit for a special event in a designated area for a specified amount of time. The permit imposes legally binding conditions on the applicant that require them to insure the event and work to protect the health and safety of the participants. Sports Authority has agreed to monitor noise, sanitation, safety and access in the permitted area; they have provided dumpsters, port-o-lets and on-site, round-the-clock security.
Permitted events like this one were accounted for within the ordinance and are in no way comparable to allowing our most vulnerable to sleep out in the elements exposed to unsafe and unsanitary conditions.
Public Works reviews all street occupancy applications thoroughly, focusing on safety and accessibility. Every application is reviewed based on its own unique circumstances.
The camping ban, according to Hancock, is an important public health measure that he argues will ultimately reduce homelessness, in part by encouraging those without a home to take advantage of the city's resources and seek help off of the street. Critics of the ban argue that the city doesn't actually have enough resources to support its homeless population. In their view, the ordinance does nothing more than criminalize those most in need and force them to hide out in unsafe places.
Continue reading for one Occupy Denver member's response to the mayor's statement.