Many people have asked my personal position on 300, so I am adding my position here to provide the most in depth response and proposed solutions. You can also check out the home page or “News” section of our website to listen to recorded videos of all candidates responses to 300 at the many debates we have participated in.
A “NO” vote on 300 is the current status quo
People across our district are completely displeased with the status quo and current state of our city when it comes to homelessness and housing. What we have RIGHT NOW in our city is equivalent to what a “No on 300” would be. Nothing. No solutions. Homeless people on the streets and police and public dollars being spent on lawsuits and the homeless being swept every few days instead of on housing them. We are also in a position where the City has been sued because of the Camping Ban and we spent dollars on settling that lawsuit. The Camping Ban has been determined to be unconstitutional in other places setting precedence for our City to lose lawsuits against us for the Camping Ban.
The Camping Ban PUSHED Homelessness into Neighborhoods
Part of why I decided to run is because my opponent sponsored the camping ban without investing resources into solving the homelessness problem even after knowing we had lost samaritan houses and services leading up to it. The camping ban was passed by city council without the voters and was the impetus for the citizen-led ballot initiative we now know as the Right to Survive. This is on the ballot not because council referred it to the ballot but because our unhoused community and advocates all over Denver organized to collect thousands of signatures to give voters the chance to vote ourselves. They spent 7 years begging city council to do better, to stop the sweeps and provide services. This initiative is because our government has failed to do better and still up until the last moment refuses to address the situation meaningfully. Instead they are bullying their grantees and participating in shaping a false narrative about what 300 would do if passed.
If “we can do better”, why haven’t we over the last 7 years since the Camping Ban?
Currently the city only provides grants to nonprofits to shelter and care for our homeless, none that are 24 hours, many that are religious based and discriminant in who they serve. The camping ban makes it essentially illegal to be homeless in Denver and it pushes homeless individuals away from where they naturally concentrate (near shelters and resources) and into neighborhoods and business areas where they are trying to avoid being "caught" or targeted by cops for illegally resting.
City-owned property belongs to ALL of us, not just those of us who are housed
I believe that criminalizing homeless people is a new form of Jim Crow era laws but rather than targeting individuals based on race they are targeted based on housing status and essentially class. When homeless folks congregated by the shelters before there were million dollar developments popping up we did not take issue. It was only when the land and area where we concentrated homeless services (because land was cheap/devalued) became more valuable that we decided to push the problem out of sight. We squeezed it it all into the surrounding areas and that is why more of us feel affected by the aesthetics of the problem.
Property cannot be elevated as more important than people. Especially public/city-owned property. Public property is owned by ALL of us regardless of whether we are housed or unhoused.
Follow the money
I fully understand how the misinformation has been overwhelming and there have been many untruths that have been told and called out but we have no mechanisms for accountability even in just the rhetoric.
My mom raised me and my siblings in poverty and I was always keenly aware of how close to living under a bridge we were as a family. I have devoted my entire career to helping our neighbors in need. As a social worker, youth development expert and policy expert I serve many folks who are homeless. Many times on their behalf, I have attempted navigating the bureaucracies our unhoused neighbors must navigate for services. We do not have services to meet the needs of our neighbors and the few that we have are not 24/7. We bus or kick people out of the privately owned, city-funded shelters every morning without giving them a place to exist without being in violation of the Camping Ban or seek support. They move around to panhandle, avoid police or get away from other territoritorial unhoused folks. The Camping Ban forces the unhoused into the shadows—further and further away from resources that take months, even years to obtain. Yes, some move around to do drugs, have sex, defecate, urinate, etc——all of the same things housed folks do without judgement or persecution. I cannot personally imagine not having a toilet to use in privacy. I know that the shame, stigma and realities associated with being homeless are enough to cause even the ones who didn't start off abusing substances to dull the pain and awareness with substances. No, we are not enabling homelessness by not ticketing them or telling them to “move along” with no clear place to move toward. We are not enabling homeless to run our public spaces. We are simply allowing them to move as freely as we do in pursuit of life, liberty and happiness. In 2019, and an era of incredible wealth inequality, we cannot compromise our values of freedom and equality because looking at poverty is unpleasant. We cannot just sweep what we perceive to be undesirable into the corners of our city. We are a city that takes responsibility for our community. We are a people that care about humans enough to face our greatest challenges with knowledge of our past regressions, dedication to our future generations and compassion in our heart. Ending poverty is more than hiding it or making it illegal.
300 is simply decriminalizing homelessness
It does not change any current park curfews, usage rules or take away private property rights. It is most likely to have the opposite effect most people are alleging. When the homeless are able to concentrate back around the shelters they won't need to hide in the neighborhood alleys and yards as is being suggested. Homeless people are not searching for a beautiful patch of YOUR green grass to sleep on. They are searching for the most inconspicuous, least dangerous areas, cut off from other people where they can rest free of being cited.
Decriminalizing is important from a city official perspective so that we are not spending scarce resources on policing homeless people who will cycle through the system repeatedly. It will allow us to use the resources we have to invest in SOLVING the problem instead of hiding it. We will also avoid the lawsuit settlements that have begun and will increase if we continue to enforce the unconstitutional camping ban.
Again, if you are unhappy right now, 300 will not change anything we are experiencing. What we have RIGHT NOW is what a “No on 300” would look and feel like. Nothing. No solutions. Homeless people on the streets and police and public dollars being spent on lawsuits and the homeless being swept every few days instead of on housing them.
Solutions Matter and are not being proposed by opponents of 300
Regardless of whether it passes or not, whomever is on council MUST address the problem with solutions. 60% of homeless folks are working and still unable to afford housing. Albus has had 8 years since passing the camping ban to do better and has shown us he either is unwilling or unable.
When elected, I will tackle the issue immediately by doing the following:
Divert housing resources from 80-120 AMI to 30-0 AMI
Invest in opening a city-owned and operated 24 hour shelter with wraparound resources and 24 housing hotline—we have the properties to do this, we need the leadership
Consolidate Denver's Road Home, homeless services and affordable housing development into one department
Rather than send police to homelessness people, initiate and deploy a triage mobile service of social worker instead to pipeline homeless into services
Provide public lockers outside city service buildings for homeless people to store belongings while they work or search for work
Provide public mobile restrooms and public trash receptacles
It’s about R-E-S-P-E-C-T
As a councilperson, I don't expect to agree with all of my constituents all of the time. Homeless residents are a large part of the District 9 constituency as well and I vow to honor all of my constituents' attempts to participate in and shape the city around us no matter how much money they have. From zoning changes, to developments, to historic preservation, to streetlights, stop signs and parking—we all deserve a voice, including and especially those that cannot afford the pay-to-play status quo.
What I can always commit to is honesty, transparency, and data driven solutions. In policy I always prioritize 3 things: people, planet and historical context. I'm all about getting to work and I hope you will support me in getting to work asap on this huge issue affecting all of us.