The Urban Camping Ban: Scare Tactics vs. Solutions

Dear Friends,

(May 20, 2019) – Michael Hancock is trying to twist my take on a homelessness strategy for Denver, using scare tactics that I will implement Initiative 300 even though the voters did not approve it. This is simply NOT TRUE. Hancock’s campaign is doing this because 83% of the voters voted against Initiative 300 (including me) and Hancock believes he can sway some of the voters his way with this rhetoric. He is using scare tactics to make you think under my leadership I will make the homeless problem worse. This approach allows him to not have to talk about what he actually WILL DO. So I wanted to clear this up with some facts:

FACT: The Urban Camping Ban and Initiative 300 are two different things.
The Urban Camping Ban was instituted in 2012 to address the impact of the Occupy Denver movement. It had NOTHING to do with homelessness. Since passing the Urban Camping Ban, homelessness in Denver has more than quadrupled, and we have more urban campers than ever before. 233 people died on the streets in 2018 – a number that has been rising each year. We spent $61M on homelessness in the last year according to the Mayor, only to see our homeless population significantly increase. The Urban Camping Ban is not working. Initiative 300 would have repealed the camping ban, as well as many other ordinances we have that address how people use our parks and public spaces. It was bad policy and went too far – that’s why I voted against it. The camping ban is bad policy too, but we can replace it with tools that work.

FACT: The Denver Auditor just released a report finding that the Mayor has no plan to address homelessness.
The report stated that Denver has a “fragmented and ineffective” approach to homelessness, and that the Mayor has no comprehensive strategy to tackle it. It also said that there is no defined leadership within the city to address homeless challenges, and there are no specific goals or benchmarks to meet. More information can be found here: https://denverauditor.org/2019/04/audit-finds-denvers-approach-to-homelessness-is-fragmented-and-understaffed/

FACT: The Urban Camping Ban doesn’t do any more to address homeless camping than any other ordinance we already have. Instead, the Mayor uses it to do inhumane “sweeps”.
$7M in taxpayer funds have been used in trying to sweep away the homeless problem. The Urban Camping Ban ordinance specifically made it illegal for the homeless to have possessions, and allowed police to take things. In the 7 years since it was passed, the Mayor has used it to justify sweeps and taking of blankets and possessions of the homeless, as written about here: https://www.westword.com/news/videos-of-denver-police-taking-blankets-from-homeless-have-gone-viral-8582970

FACT: The City of Denver was sued for the Urban Camping Ban
In February of this year, Denver settled a class action lawsuit over the December 2016 sweeps related to the Urban Camping Ban in which police officers took peoples blankets and possessions, as seen in this article: https://www.denverpost.com/2019/02/04/denver-homeless-camping-ban-trial/. The case went to federal court in 2016. Any policy that creates legal action against the city isn’t good policy. There is word that another lawsuit is forthcoming.

As Mayor, I CANNOT REPEAL the Urban Camping Ban – that is City Council’s job, and they won’t do anything without a plan. A plan that shifts to solutions and away from scare tactics.

I have a plan for my first 180 days in office:

  • Stop the sweeps and work to move our unhoused neighbors to housing and services. This means investing in housing vouchers to help our homeless get into vacant units, providing city land for more tiny home villages, and investing in portable restrooms, showers and lockers.
  • Invest immediately on our shelter network. We will purchase beds for all shelters (currently, most have mats) and ensure they are equipped with what they need. We will immediately acquire additional 24/7 shelter space and integrate services to build a larger shelter network with access for veterans, LGBTQ people, couples and people with pets and service animals.
  • Combine city housing and homelessness operations via a charter amendment and appoint an expert with deep experience in affordable housing and homelessness who will be part of the Mayor’s cabinet.
  • Unite for working families. Provide attainable housing for 200 working families living on the edge of homelessness in 6 months, and an additional 200 units in 12 months.
  • Partner with the Denver Housing Authority to expand the Housing Choice Voucher Program to meet the resource challenges of the over 15,000 families on the waitlist.
  • Invest in social service workers to go to the streets and work to get people to shelter and services – this should not be the role of the police unless criminal activity is happening.
  • Coordinate services – all our service providers for mental health and drug addiction in Denver are working in silos. With the new mental health sales tax passed in November (around $45M per year) we can build new facilities and deploy more resources to get people where they need to go.
  • Get people to jobs – we have a labor shortage. 60% of our homeless are working homeless. Many others are willing to work. Let’s expand job services and job training by growing the Denver Day Works Program and other workforce training initiatives.

You can read my full, detailed plan for homelessness here. https://www.jamiefordenver.com/a-compassionate-plan-to-help-the-homeless-and-most-vulne, developed together with the #UniteDenver team.

We need to invest – quickly – in moving the needle to solve the problem, with strategy and with data to track results. Other cities are doing it. We can too.

The Mayor has said nothing about what he will do to tackle homelessness in the next four years – instead, focusing on fear-mongering over what will happen if I’m elected. But let’s be real – we need a solution, and he’s not willing to invest in one. Let’s work together, to tackle it head on.

All Together Now,
Jamie

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