Denver, Colorado – Where its a crime to be homeless
So, in Denver in case you haven’t heard, the City outlawed “Urban Camping” which resulted in multiple sweeps to remove the homeless camps throughout the city.
Meaning, the police would swoop in and confiscate things like, tents, tarps, blankets, clothing, sleeping bags, etc from the homeless in an effort to force them to…stop being homeless of course.
According to the Urban Dictionary, Urban Camping is defined as: “camping in an urban setting by sleeping on rooftops, under bushes, and in public parks.”
According to a Medical Dictionary Urban Camping is defined as (and I truly love this one): “A flippant term for homelessness.”
The National Health Care for The Homeless, defines homeless as: “an individual who lacks housing (without regard to whether the individual is a member of a family), including an individual whose primary residence during the night is a supervised public or private facility (e.g., shelters) that provides temporary living accommodations, and an individual who is a resident in transitional housing.”
“A homeless person is an individual without permanent housing who may live on the streets; stay in a shelter, mission, single room occupancy facilities, abandoned building or vehicle; or in any other unstable or non-permanent situation.”
So while the definition of Urban Camping is a play on words, the definition of homeless is not, it is the reality of the situation.
Being homeless and living on the streets is technically not the same thing as “urban camping,” yet cities across the nation have tried and failed to outlaw this thing called “Urban Camping” which is basically a passive-aggressive way to outlaw being homeless.
To get to that conclusion I just looked at the the definition of camping: “the activity spending a vacation living in a camp, tent, or camper.”
The last time I checked, being homeless was not a vacation.
On Saturday of last week Denver Mayor Michael Hancock announced that police should not take blankets and other items from the homeless after video surfaced across the web showing Denver Police taking blankets and other items from the homeless camped out on Denver sidewalks during last weeks cold and snowy weather.
Out of the kindness of the Mayor’s heart, he suggested that police allow the homeless to keep blankets, sleeping bags, tents, tarps and the like during the cold, wet months.
Well, we cannot rob the poor because the wealthy don’t want to look at them, because the wealthy don’t like what they see.
If we don’t like human suffering, we need to find a way to end it, without causing and inflicting shame, harm and mental trauma.
Start by asking some of the homeless if they want to be homeless, find productive ways to help those that don’t want to be homeless and find ways to better assist those that want to continue to be homeless because quite a few do want to be homeless like it or not.
9News in Denver did a story a few weeks ago about a homeless man who wanted to continue to be homeless, he liked it even though he got arrested a lot.
We cannot make the choice for this man to change his wayward ways if it’s not what he wants to do, it’s his choice.
We cannot force anyone who wants to be homeless to stop being homeless or into shelters that are unclean, filthy and unsafe.
Build better shelters, ones that replace all bedding every night and day so they are cleaner and bedbug free.
Arm those shelters with police or armed guards so that they are safe and so as to ensure the personal belongings of each homeless person is not stolen by another.
Better yet, build outdoor shelters so that the homeless can take their own personal belongings with them, equip them with portable outdoor heaters for colder months and supply armed officers to keep those that utilize the space safe.
Employ the city cleaning crews to go clean the outdoor shelters daily.
Work with local business owners and encourage them to stop selling alcohol to the homeless in the area.
The point is, we cannot force someone off of the streets, we cannot bus them away, so it’s time to start to better address the issues of the homeless in Denver without causing them undue harm.
If the residents and business owners really want something done about the homeless in the area, make them pay for better ways to assist the homeless.
Something that is not a passive-aggressive way of outlawing being homeless.
I use this one a lot “The problem is not the problem; the problem is your attitude about the problem.”
And that perfectly sums up the City of Denver’s idea’s about addressing and then solving the city’s homeless problem.
We cannot and should not punish the homeless for being homeless regardless of whether or not we try to dress it up by calling it “Urban Camping.”
Being homeless is not the same as as a vacation, living on the streets is not camping, urban or otherwise no matter how you try to dress it up.
It’s time that the City of Denver learn to address the homeless problem by addressing it as exactly what it is, instead of what it is not.
Cristal M Clark