On Tuesday May, 7th 2019 Initiative 300, the Right to Survive, did not pass. Denver voters were the first in the nation to have a chance to vote on a ballot measure to decriminalize homelessness. Never before has an initiative that protects the rights of people without housing or shelter been taken directly to the voters.
The Right to Survive Initiative was placed on the ballot by poor and homeless people who said “enough is enough”. We can not let the City continue to use our police to chase us around the city with nowhere to go. This campaign has made homelessness the number one conversation in the election. Thus forcing city leaders to be confronted by communities all over the city with the reality that policies of criminalizing homelessness do not work.
The YES on 300 campaign was never on an even playing field. The NO on 300 campaign called “Together Denver” spent at least $2.4 million – outspending 300 proponents 24 to 1. This money was used to drum up fear of “homeless people sleeping on your front lawn” and/or “taking over the parks.” Our opponents took great lengths to mislead voters about the effects of the initiative. Completely disregarding the current reality of homelessness and the likely effects on our city if the initiative would it have passed. Unfortunately, it seems as though their cynical tactics based on teaching communities around the city to fear and despise our homeless communities succeeded.
Yet, this is a growing movement noted by the fact that 33,685 Denver voters chose compassion and reason. Those numbers will continue to grow. This time around hundreds of volunteers, donors, dozens of supporting organizations, and thousands of people surviving on the streets made this a historic campaign.
The fight for human rights and dignity has never been easy in any oppressed community. Working towards these rights and dignity is a long-haul struggle. Ending Denver’s urban camping ban, protecting basic rights for people trying to survive in public, and building the resources to guarantee housing as a human right for all will not happen overnight. But progress is being made.
This campaign has moved the issue of homelessness in our city into pain view. Very counter to policies that try to hide our homeless communities from our eyes. We have thousands and thousands of people experiencing homelessness in our city. They will continue to be homeless as the needed housing is years off in being available. But it doesn’t have to stay that way. Let’s end this insanity.
So NOW what…??
To City Hall, to the courts, to the streets… to work…
There is a runoff election for Mayor and five City Council seats on June 4th. Every Mayoral candidate except Hancock supports repealing the camping ban and 75% of City Council candidates supported repeal of the camping ban. (Check out this voters guide for where they stand http://denverhousingmatters.com).
Over the past few weeks Mayor Hancock has directed police to be in full force against “illegal camping” (aka public survival). Sweeps and camping ban enforcement have been pretty much non-stop all across the city. Night after night people are being awoken at midnight or 3am told if they don’t pack up and leave “somewhere out of sight” they face arrest. Even in the rain.
Let’s end this inhumanity and insanity.
Get involved in Denver Homeless Out Loud.
For the past 7 years we at Denver Homeless Out Loud have been fighting against criminalization, for housing, and to ensure people with direct experience of homelessness are leading the fight. You can join us in this work. Everyone has something to contribute…
Onward toward the right to survive…