DENVER (CBS4) – Homeless camps are technically illegal in Denver, but they can still be found around the city. Should they be allowed? It’s a question at the center of Initiative 300, which will go to Denver voters next month.
“I think it’s a very tough and delicate subject,” Tim Samp, co-owner of Duality, said.
Samp and his fiance, Jen Sevcik, are on the fence when it comes to 300. They both said they care about helping others, it’s a big reason why they’re opening a new fitness center in Denver in a couple weeks. Yet the couple isn’t quite sure the initiative is the right way to help the homeless.
“The language has just been a little bit unclear,” Sevcik said of 300.
Initiative 300 would repeal Denver’s urban camping ban and replace it with a legal “right to rest” in public rights-of-way. Tents in city parks would be legal, as would makeshift shelters near rivers and camps along sidewalks.
“That’s scary because that could mean we have people camping out in front of our studio and we have no rights to ask them to leave,” Samp said. “There’s got to be a better way. I have to be equipped as a business owner to do something, to help them, but I also think our city needs to be equipped to provide a service to them.”
To help people better understand 300, the West Colfax Association of Neighbors held a community meeting at Confluence Ministries on Tuesday. It allowed representatives from both sides of the issue to give a short presentation.
“Telling a homeless person that it’s illegal for them to use a sleeping bag, tarp or tent to protect themselves from the weather puts them at risk for hypothermia or freezing to death,” Diane Thiel, a member of the Denver Right to Survive Initiative Committee, said.
However, opponents argue 300 will create more problems than it solves.
“It’s not a matter of if it’s a matter of when we have a public health and safety crisis at a tent encampment that is unregulated, that people cannot approach without being hit with a civil rights violation,” Christina Sandhoff, a member of Together Denver which opposes Initiative 300, said.
Samp and Sevcik left the short meeting still unsure how they’ll vote on the issue in May, but they believe something needs to be done.
“I think everyone could do more,” Samp said.
Confluence Ministries plans to host another community discussion on Initiative 300 next Wednesday, April 17. To sign up or learn more, contact the organization: https://www.confluenceministries.org/.