DENVER – The Colorado House Local Government Committee on Wednesday is set to decide the fate of the “Right to Rest Act.”
House Bill 1067 would roll back local laws that make it illegal to sit or sleep in public spaces.
Terese Howard, an organizer with the group Denver Homeless Out Loud, says all people, regardless of their economic or social status, have the right to exist in public places without fear.
“This bill would stop the inhumane, ineffective and unconstitutional practices of ticketing, harassing and arresting people who are sleeping, sitting down, basic acts of survival,” she states.
Colorado communities have passed more than 350 ordinances that make it illegal for people to ask for charity, sleep or rest on a public bench or even in their own, parked car.
Similar bills have died in the past three legislative sessions. Opponents maintain the policies are necessary to move people off the streets and into shelters.
Howard says when police force people to move, they actually end up going farther away from shelters, and that makes it harder for outreach workers to find them.
She says the solution to ending homelessness is to invest more tax dollars in affordable housing, not spend money incarcerating people for sitting or sleeping.
“The theory that these ordinances help connect people to services is completely unfounded, and in fact it’s the exact opposite,” she said. “It makes it harder for folks to get into housing, get into services and get their lives together.”
Howard adds that many Coloradans are only a divorce or job loss away from experiencing homelessness.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, a single adult in Denver needs to earn more than $41,000 a year, or nearly double the current minimum wage, just to meet basic needs such as housing.
A single parent with one child has to earn $72,000 dollars to get by in Pueblo, and $59,000 in Grand Junction.