Members of the Denver City Council were scheduled to debate a proposal that would make it illegal, and impose fines or jail time, for sleeping outside on public property anywhere in the city.
This proposed city ordinance is unnecessary, mean-spirited and potentially unconstitutional. Boulder recently passed a similar ordinance, and we can’t let city government criminalize homelessness in Denver too.
At any given time, the number of homeless persons in Denver far exceeds the number of available shelter beds. The proposed ordinance provides two choices: leave Denver or go to jail.
People who are homeless are afforded all the rights and protections guaranteed by the Constitution and should not be made criminals because they need to sleep outside. The proposed Denver ordinance, according to ACLU of Colorado Legal Director Mark Silverstein, is neither productive nor humane.
“When the homeless shelters are closed or full, it is terribly unfair, and unconstitutional, to impose fines and jail sentences on persons who have no choice but to sleep outdoors,” Silverstein said. “For the sake of justice for those who are homeless, we must turn back this proposal.”
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