A story posted this morning on Westword not only explores Denver’s homeless legal situation but also the issues that have had an impact on Boise, Idaho, as well. Westword reporter Sara Fleming explains the differences in both cities.
But the crux of the matter is this:
“As Denver’s camping ban is tested in courts — the city is appealing the decision — it may join Boise as a battleground of rising tensions over a national question: Is it cruel and unusual punishment to ticket, arrest, and cite people for sleeping on the streets?”
When I got back in town from vacation, it was time to begin catching up on reading stories about the court ruling on Dec. 27 by a Denver County judge that overturned the city’s camping ban because it was unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment. The initial story in The Denver Post noted that “In his ruling, Judge Johnny C. Barajas cited a decision from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals striking down a camping ban in Boise, Idaho, last year. The U.S. Supreme Court recently declined to review that ruling.”
There have been numerous stories since the court ruling. It rattled Denver, and the police pulled back from enforcing the camping ban. Stories probably will continue for many weeks because the city will appeal.
But we all need to recall the fact that Denver voters totally buried Initiative 300 during the May municipal election last year. Those who wanted to retain the camping ban ran under the mantra “We can do better.” Those who supported 300 ran under the slogan “Right to Survive.”
As before, what does “We can do better” really mean? I understand that a court ruling happens when it happens, but this may push the city to do even more. Yes, the city of Denver has created a Department of Housing Stability, purchasing buildings that will be for rent, for those who have an income that may not be do-able. For the rest of those with no home or who do not want to go to a shelter: Now what?
I hope that this can be sorted out as soon as possible (though not probable). After all, the homeless population of about 5,700 people here are still people. There has to be a solution.
Below are links to the Westword story; a piece in The Idaho Statesman on Boise’s quest to get their case heard before the Supreme Court; a story in The Los Angeles Times, a newspaper in a city with 60,000 homeless people, and the first story in The Denver Post.