DENVER (CBS4) – A push is on to allow homeless people to camp in Denver city parks and on the 16th Street Mall. Supporters are trying to get an initiative they’re calling The Right to Survive on the ballot.
Homeless Outloud is one of several groups that say people who don’t have a home have a right to shelter, rest and privacy.
Denver recently banned camping on public property due to health and safety concerns, and that doesn’t sit well with everyone.
“Instead of the response being to provide housing and to address our housing need, which was the root cause of homelessness, the response was to further criminalize folks,” said Terese Howard of Homeless Outloud.
The group hopes to get the initiative on the ballot in May 2019.
If the initiative were to pass, it would have a big impact on people like Jerry Burton. He told CBS4 he has been struggling since he lost his job and his home five years ago.
“To live on the street is not something that no human being should do,” he said.
Burton says the worst part of being homeless is losing your dignity.
“People look at you like you’re nothing. They treat you like you’re not a human being. Calling the police on you and you’re just sitting there or laying there not bothering nobody.”
He says if the city doesn’t want people camping, it should provide affordable housing.
“We have to show compassion toward each other. And that’s something we don’t have.”
Howard says her movement is about basic human rights.
“All people have the right to sleep, to sit, to lay down, to cover yourself, to share food, to sleep in a vehicle and to have privacy of your belongings in public space,” she said.
Similar measures have failed at the Colorado state capitol. The groups pushing for this say they hope to have better success through a city ballot.
CBS4 reached out to the Civic Center Conservancy and the Downtown Denver Business Partnership for comment about this story. Both said they are aware of the initiative but didn’t provide a comment on Tuesday.