14 May 2012

Denver City Council To Criminalize Homelessness

The Denver City Council supported a measure, called a "camping ban," a euphemism for the criminalization of the fact that someone is homeless and living on the streets (i.e. a vagrant) by a 9-4 margin in a preliminary vote a couple of weeks ago. I am deeply disgusted (but not tremendously surprised) to learn today (the efforts of the Denver Post to prominently make clear who is and isn't supporting the measure on the non-partisan city council has not been impressive) that my city council representative, Chris Nevitt, backed the measure.

The ordinance marks a stark departure from the more positive and constructive approach to dealing with the homeless that Mr. Hickenlooper had advanced when he was the Mayor of Denver.

The measure is expected to receive final approval this evening.

I have no idea why Mayor Hancock and more than two-thirds of the current city council think that this approach is wise. Yes, vagrants have never been known to wield much political power, and they are an annoyance to much more powerful business interests. But, how does this in any way address the underlying problem or make it possible for the people criminalized here to comply with the law? It is abundantly clear that the City of Denver simply does not have anywhere near the resources it needs to provide every vagrant on its streets with a place to stay right now, using the city jail to serve that purpose is an absurdly expensive and wasteful way to bridge that gap, and the Council has shown no signs of eliminating the need that has put so many people out on the street as it is today. The measure smells like something out of "The Little Prince" or fable, "The Emperor Has No Clothes," where a narcisstic leader imagines that by decreeing that unpleasant things are forbidden that they will magically stop happening.

UPDATE: As expected, Denver's City Council has criminalized homelessness in the city by the same 9-4 margin as in its original vote. Maybe its time to haul out the recall rules and see what we need to do to throw the bums out. If signed tomorrow by the Mayor, as expected, the ordinance will take effect on May 30, 2012.

No comments: