Denver’s Urban Camping Ban Overturned- Now What?

Denver’s Urban Camping Ban Overturned 

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Denver, Colorado vs. The Eighth Amendment

Cristal M Clark 

Citing the eighth amendment, last Friday a Denver County Court judge ruled that Denver’s urban camping ban is unconstitutional, the ban was put into effect in 2012. Judge Johnny C. Barajas ruled that the ban violated the eighth amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment because it criminalizes homeless individuals for trying to survive on the streets when they have nowhere else to go.

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Which is in fact, true. Because of the ruling the Denver police are now prohibited from arresting or harassing homeless people if they are not doing anything of criminal nature. 

That’s right folks, the Denver Police were allowed to harass homeless people before the ban was overturned. You or I can get arrested for harassing someone, but the police can do it and it’s okay? WTF?

Also it’s important to note that back in May, Denver residents voted to reject Initiative 300, which would have overturned the camping ban because when someone is living in his/her brand new million dollar studio they don’t want to see a homeless encampment outside on the sidewalk and it’s way, way, way to inconvenient to have to walk around or step over the homeless who might be passed out on the sidewalk, not to mention sometimes when the mood strikes the homeless might just hop on the goodfoot right out on a public walkway. 

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“The Eighth Amendment, or Amendment VIII of the United States Constitution is the section of the Bill of Rights that states that that punishments must be fair, cannot be cruel, and that fines that are extraordinarily large cannot be set.”

The ban being overturned has been celebrated by advocates for the homeless and has also left others quite upset and beating down the doors of local media to bitch, whine and complain. Case in point, Bishop Jerry Demmer has been leading Absolute Word Church at the corner of 24th and California for the past six years. He says there have always been homeless campers in the park across the street, but now the entire area has been overrun with homeless campers and he’s concerned that it’s going to chase away potential god fearing parishioners. That is according to what he told the local news outlets a day or so ago. “One of the hardest things in this homeless epidemic is that people decide I can urinate wherever and I can defecate wherever, man on the front of the church just dropped his pants and defecated.”

“When I came up this morning they were all the way down the street and sidewalk was taken over with bikes and everything on it, I could not park here this morning.” He actually had to park down the street and walk into the church rather than park right out front, can you imagine how grueling that must have been? 

“I have a great church. But a lot of people would never come to my church if they rode by and seen the situation on the side and sometimes in the front. They would never come to the church because it’s like, well I can’t even get into your church”

“I’ve been involved with feeding the homeless and clothing the homeless,” that’s been one of our ministries, so I have an appreciation for the homeless.” He was also careful to mention how he fears this attracting more homeless people now that you know the ban has been overturned. How brazenly hypocritical of the Bishop to say, he cares so long as he doesn’t have to fucking look at it, step over it or go around it. 

Let’s not leave out the Denver Rescue mission here, according to President and CEO of the Denver Rescue Mission Brad Meuli according to him this could make it more difficult for them to serve individuals experiencing homelessness.

“This ruling is a great concern to us, we don’t think people should stay on the streets. We think they should come into facilities like Denver Rescue Mission, Catholic Charities, Salvation Army, Volunteers of America where they can get the help that they need. I don’t think anyone should stay outside, I wouldn’t want to stay outside. I think folks should come in where it’s warm, where it’s safe, where you can go to the bathroom or you can take a shower.”

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Welp Brad, looks like you’re going to have to climb on down off of that high horse of yours and actually walk the pavement and see what you can do that way rather than force the homeless to some of the shelters you mentioned above, some of which the homeless tell me are full of bugs, theft, violence, and sex assault. It is no wonder many choose to sleep in tents along the sidewalk when some of the facilities offer absolutely no safety and are rife with criminal activity. 

Local businesses are not happy about the ruling but fear speaking to the local media will affect business as advocates of the homeless who never supported the ban are known to cause issues for businesses who get vocal in support of the ban. Actual residents in Denver, well walk around and converse with them and see how they feel, all I hear from them is a lot of whining about all the money they paid to live downtown like somehow that money should be utilized to remove the hideous homeless eyesores right? The mentality is more like just get rid of it so we don’t have to look at it. 

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Here’s the thing, the Judge is right, the ban is an absolute violation of the eight amendment, and those of you that support the ban should be ashamed of yourselves, you care more about illegal immigrant rights than the rights of those who were born here. You want to force them out of living off the streets yet you lack the wherewithal to actually understand or comprehend why some of these individuals are homeless and when you don’t get it, you are never going to be able to help resolve the issue. Maybe stop looking down your noses at these human beings and try to help address why they are on the street in the first place and that includes forking over your hard earned money to support ways off of the streets rather than demand the city just somehow magically write a law on the books punishing people for being homeless. 

Cristal M Clark

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