Colorado Homeless Bill of Rights
In April of 2014 members of Denver Homeless Out Loud hit the streets with questionnaires to document homeless people’s experiences with police and private security, shelters, and basic survival on the streets. Soon after groups in Fort Collins, Grand Junction, Boulder, Colorado Springs and other cities/towns through Colorado join on and started gathering these same questionnaires on the streets in those cities. In November 2014 we examined the findings and determined the rights which would be in the Right to Rest Act based on the activities people were being negatively impacted by the most and which are acts of survival which all people must do. Through street outreach in Colorado we came to the same core rights as California and Oregon came to through street outreach.
At this time we in Colorado joined Western Regional Advocacy Project (WRAP)! Together with WRAP we wrote the Right to Rest Act.
In December 2014 Representatives Joe Salazar and Jovan Melton agreed to take the lead in sponsoring the Right to Rest Act HB 1264 in the Colorado State Legislator! And on April 15 and 27 2015 the Right to Rest Act was heard in the State Veterans and Military Affairs Committee. Testimony was given by people criminalized for surviving in public space, faith leaders, lawyers, and others sharing the need to pass this bill and protect our rights. Business representatives, city lobbyists, and others said this bill must not pass because they did not want to see homeless people sleeping by their business, because they did not want lawsuits, and because they believe the laws against resting in public help police connect homeless people to services. The committee members voted with the business and anti-homeless interests and voted down the bill on a 8-3 vote.
Watch Testimonies posted by Get Loud Magazine here:
After HB 1264 was voted down in committee we got right back to work gathering more questionnaires on the streets, doing research, and presenting with the campaign all over the state. In January 2016 our Right to Rest Act published again: this year as HB 1191. In February 2016 DU Sturm College of Law presented the report we worked with them to produce called Too High a Price: the Criminalization of Homelessness in Colorado.
On February 24 2016 the Right to Rest Act HB 1191 was heard in the Local Affairs committee. The hearing went for over 8 hours with testimonies from over 30 people calling for the Right to Rest and a handful of business representatives, local government lobbyists, and police calling for the continued criminalization of homeless and poor people. In the late night when the bill went to vote the committee voted 5-6 against the right to rest. We were one vote short of passing this committee.
Watch Livestream of the last 20 min of the hearing here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wsh2kOxzeVY
Because this bill did not pass the people of Colorado will continue to be awakened and moved about the city with no place to legally rest; the people of Colorado will continue to be ticketed and later thrown in jail for covering up with a blanket to stay warm; the people of Colorado will continue to hear taps on their window from officers telling them they can’t sleep in their own car. Laws will continue to be used to attempt to hid, to move “away,” the fact we live in a State and a Country with mass homelessness and poverty.
But we cannot be hidden and forced “away.” We are here and we will continue to exist in public space. And just as we must continue to exist, we will continue to join together and fight for our rights to exist…!
The day after HB 1191 was voted down we got right back to work speaking out, documenting, gathering input, and organizing for our rights. After the massive increase in police harassment and sweeps in Denver since March of 2016 our work and resolve has gotten that much stronger to bring the Right to Rest Act to Colorado. Together with Representatives Salazar and Melton we are reaped up and ready to bring the Right to Rest Act back to the capitol again in 2017… May this be the year where our basic rights to survive our respected in the law… We will continue to stand strong and press on until our rights our respected.
2017 Right to Rest Act Documents:
Colorado WRAP Members:
Check out Denver Homeless Out Loud’s publication Get Loud here.
Get Involved with the Campaign
The best way to get involved with the Colorado Statewide Homeless Bill of Rights Campaign is to get in touch with one of the WRAP core members to find out about working on the local level to push for change on the state level.
Some other ways to get involved:
- Invite Colorado organizers to come to your community and hold a forum to talk about criminalization and the Homeless Bill of Rights campaign.
- Participate in WRAP’s street outreach to people on the streets in your neighborhood to hear their experiences and build a collective voice around criminalization.
- Provide connections with universities who want to do research on criminalization or others who want to support moving anti-criminalization legislation in 2017.
- Donate to WRAP or the 1 core member of WRAP in Colorado.
If you have questions about the campaign you can write to us or call us:
Or see more at the Denver Homeless Out Loud Gallery