I am opposed to Initiative 300. I have a heart for those without homes, but this is not the answer.
Soon after being elected, I co-chaired a Council retreat on homelessness. For four years, I have pushed for housing, job training, aid for mental illness and addiction, transportation, triage centers and more revenue to fund them. This is a serious problem. The City provides funds to Denver Health and others including Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, The Salvation Army, St. Francis Center, Denver Rescue Mission, and Urban Peak, but it needs to do more. However, Initiative 300 is not the solution. It does not and clearly will not help the homeless to improve their situations.
Initiative 300 is confusingly named The Right to Survive. No one denies that people have that right, but this Initiative is not aimed at long-term survival aid. It doesn’t call for more housing, supportive services, triage facilities, and transportation to break the cycle of homelessness. Instead, it gives anyone the right to camp indefinitely anywhere in public space without any regulations. Furthermore, if outreach workers, law enforcement or private citizens and businesses try to give aid, provide protection and safety, or negotiate compromise, they may be indicted for a crime and even sued. And, passage of this Initiative will deteriorate the quality of our parks and open spaces, have a detrimental effect on our economy and tourism, and could threaten quality of life with health concerns and safety issues.
My understanding is that unintended consequences of this broad, ill-defined Initiative could:
Prohibit Denver from enforcing essential laws that protect public safety.
Allow people to occupy all outdoor public spaces, including parks and right of way areas in front of homes, alleys, venues, etc. indefinitely.
Allow tent camping in our parks without a curfew. Tent cities could develop.
Allow living in parked cars and the unfettered distribution of food in public spaces.
Create health and safety hazards in parks and public spaces.
Divert revenue from real survival aid to managing public waste, trash, etc.
Most importantly, decrease the enjoyment and safety of our parks and public space for our families, children and all residents including those without homes.
This Initiative has highlighted the City’s shortcomings in addressing needs, but it is not the solution. I believe our citizens want to help. What we need are concrete action, funding and real results for true survival: survival of those without homes and the survival of our great city.