LETTER: Proposed city ordinance isn’t way to curb homelessness

Dear Mayor Hancock and City Council Members,

As state senators and representatives for Denver, we share your concern about the prevalence of homelessness in our city. We recognize the frustrations that have led to the development of Ordinance 12-0241. Nevertheless, we urge you to delay enactment of this ordinance until a comprehensive plan to address the needs of our homeless constituents is in place.

Denver suffers from a lack of adequate emergency shelter to meet the needs of this growing populace. Our health, mental health, and substance treatment services for homeless citizens are insufficient to meet the demand. As legislators it is our duty to protect the health, safety, and welfare of Colorado. We believe that enactment of ordinance 12-0241, prior to ensuring adequate resources for the homeless, will endanger lives and may lead to deaths.

The purpose of most laws is to advise the citizenry of actions that are illegal so that they can choose to comply or face consequences. Most often, homelessness is not a choice. Given the lack of affordable and emergency housing, Ordinance 12-0241, would criminalize techniques necessary for survival.

We are told that the arrest and criminalization of homeless people is not the goal of the ordinance. However, if a person using blankets to survive is arrested, this act will create a criminal record which will perpetuate their inability to secure employment or housing.

We are distressed to hear that this ordinance has been advanced without support from the many stakeholders who have been attempting to address homelessness in our city. We would welcome the opportunity to work with you and all stakeholders, including self-advocates, to develop a humane, affordable, comprehensive plan to achieve our shared goals.

As elected officials, we are all invested in fostering prosperity and community. We urge you to reject this ordinance. Instead, let us work together to protect all of our citizens, including the many who experience homelessness.

Respectfully submitted,

Senator Irene Aguilar
Senator Pat Steadman
Senator Lucia Guzman
Representative Angela Williams
Representative Joe Miklosi

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