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'Right to Survive' Homeless Initiative Fails With Denver Voters

Denver's "Right to Survive" initiative highlights just how troubling and problematic policy approaches to homelessness can be.
May 15, 2019, 11am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Cherry Creek
Jose A Feliciano

J. Brian Charles reports: "On Tuesday, Denver voters were the first in the country to weigh in on whether homeless people should have what supporters say is the "right to survive." They responded with an overwhelmingly no."

Ballot Initiative 300 would have ended a citywide ban on camping and wearing a blanket, "effectively criminalizing homeless people who live in tents and on the streets," according to Charles.

According to Charles, Initiative 300 was a result of the September 2018 ruling in the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals overturning a Boise law that banned sleeping in public spaces as "cruel and unusual punishment."

The "right to survive" initiative failed to win support from some homeless advocates as well as the city agency working to reduce homelessness in the city. "Its director, Chris Conner, argued that eliminating the ban would cut some homeless people off from services they need. Under the ban, police are required to connect homeless people they encounter with social services. They only issue a ticket or make an arrest if the person refuses services or refuses to move," explains Charles.

"But Denver Homeless Out Loud, which gathered the signatures to put Initiative 300 on the ballot, objected to the idea that the ban reduces homelessness. It merely moves homeless people out of sight and out of mind."

Full Story:
Published on Tuesday, May 7, 2019 in Governing
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