Friday February 2nd 2024, Mayor Mike Johnston Vetoed the No Freezing Sweeps bill passed by City Council. Through this act he has sentenced houseless people of Denver to more sickness, suffering, loss of limbs, and potential death. He has made it clear to the people of Denver that he cares about keeping downtown areas clear of visible houseless people and does not care if that comes at the expense of houseless people’s livelihoods, limbs or lives.
Come to City Hall (1437 Bannock St) in front of the Mayor’s office tomorrow, Saturday February 3rd, at 11am to protest this horrific, heartless act by Mayor Johnston. Bring signs. Let our cries be heard…
The Mayor received hundreds of emails from you all asking him to not veto this bill. And he did not listen. In the Mayor’s letter to City Council (see attached) explaining his veto, he gave the following main reasons:
Prevents our ability to close encampments and move people into housing.
Overturns the city-adopted camping ban for up to one third of the year.
Eliminates our ability to close or move encampments that are in the public right of way.
Eliminates our ability to prevent encampments near new shelter sites and maintain closures of encampments that have been resolved.
Restricts our ability to close encampments due to public health and safety risks.
First and foremost, this bill could not be more clear that it does not prevent any movement of houseless people into housing! Quite the opposite, this bill better enables outreach workers to find people to connect them with housing or shelter in the cold because they are not being swept. Furthermore, in spite of the fact that there is nothing in the bill preventing the City from going through a camp to offer hotels/non-congregate shelter (which over 90% of houseless people do take when offered), we still sent the Mayor a draft amendment yesterday to exempt any sweep where a hotel or other such non-congregate shelter is being offered to residents even in the cold – and the Mayor refused to even consider this amendment. Clearly he does not actually care about how this affects connection to housing or shelter.
The claim that this bill “overturns the camping ban for a third of the year” not only reveals his true desire in this veto (to enforce the camping ban regardless of the cold) but also is simply not true. Councilwoman Parady’s office did the math and found that camping ban enforcement would still be allowed in 91.9% of winter days.
The last three reasons the Mayor gives again reiterate his true drive to veto this bill – to keep houseless people out of sight, in particular in public areas he has declared “closed” after sweeping a camp. Somehow this Mayor believes he has the right to take over public property with fences and extreme policing to “close” public space. While he mentioned “public health” as a reason to need to sweep even under freezing weather, he never mentions the public health effect of taking people’s survival gear in freezing cold and forcing them to move through the City with nowhere to go. Somehow that public health concern is not important to him.
In summary, Mayor Johnston has taken the very serious act of vetoing council passed legislation to jeopardize the safety and wellbeing of houseless people of Denver – disguised under lie after lie…
Again, come tomorrow (Saturday) 11am to City Hall to protest this inhumanity.
There is still one more last chance at passing this bill… On February 12th City Council will hold a veto override vote. If any two of the 6 council members who voted No change their vote to yes, we could still pass this bill…!@% So please continue to contact all Council members who voted No and ask for their Yes vote! These members are Chris Hinds, Flor Alvedez, Diana Romero-Campbell, Amanda Sawyer, and Darrell Watson.
One effect of this bill not passing is going to be an increased need for survival gear and community outreach to get houseless people the gear they lose in freezing sweeps. Please also keep this in mind and donate gear to us (HAND), Mutual Aid Monday, and directly to houseless people.
Onwards towards life and limbs…
Housekeys Action Network Denver
Towards rights, dignity, housing…