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City Council To Debate Ban On Overnight Camping

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Homeless set up camp along the 16th Street Mall in Denver. (credit: CBS)

Homeless set up camp along the 16th Street Mall in Denver. (credit: CBS)

DENVER (CBS4) – The Denver City Council will consider a ban on overnight camping during its meeting Monday.

Critics of the ban say it effectively makes being homeless a crime and that if the ban is imposed there need to be more services in place to help that population.

The ban would mean people sleeping along the 16th Street Mall could be arrested.

For the homeless, the move seems heartless.

“There’s just no compassion anymore for homeless people,” was William’s assessment. He’s spent the last 11 years on Denver’s streets.

Homeless advocates say the ban creates another threat for the people, especially women, living on the streets.

“In addition to facing the risk of sexual assault and exploitation, they will have to hide from being contacted by the police so they won’t be arrested,” explained Terrell Curtis with the Delores Project.

At least one city council member isn’t convinced the ban is a good idea. Debbie Ortega worries a citywide ban would push the homeless into neighborhoods before enough shelter room can be found.

“The expectation is that the street outreach workers that are there today are going to be able to take care of the problem citywide? I don’t believe we have the wherewithal to do that,” Ortega said.

But for businesses, it’s all about perception and making people feel safe to visit.

“People are afraid to come downtown, especially at night,” said Josh Davies the president of the LoDo Neighborhood Association.

“The crime statistics show it’s not about actual crime,” Davis went on. “It’s about this perception. We need to find some solutions.”

If Denver were to pass the ordinance it could take effect by the end of May.

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