Advocates Demand Denver Protect Rights of People Without Homes

Denver, CO – In the afternoon of October 21, 2019, local advocacy group Denver Homeless Out Loud (DHOL), along with other social justice and human rights groups, held a rally outside City Hall to continue to demand that the city government take action in support of the local unhoused community.

We were live during the 100th Day Action for Rights, Dignity and Housing rally.

On Denver’s municipal election inagauration day on July 15, 2019, the coalition held a rally across the street from City Hall to deliver a 100-day action plan to incumbent Mayor Michael Hancock and the city council members.

Terese Howard of DHOL introduced their proposed plan to a group of about thirty describing how the mayor and the city council candidates made promises during their campaigns about how they were going to take action on houselessness and how housing was their number one priority.

“If they are actually going to change a track record, a dismal track record, of treating homelessness like a crime and treating housing like a privilege for the rich, then that has to start changing today.” – Terese Howard

Policies suggested by the coalition include directing the public works department to install and service trash cans near every encampment, budget for and fund porta potties near every encampment, budget for and fund an expansion of the Triangle Works program, budget $60 million for 0-30% Area Median Income (AMI) housing, and repealing the Unauthorized Camping Ordinance (camping ban), which was signed into law during Mayor Hancock’s first term in 2012.

The camping ban effectively criminalizes basic acts of survival such as eating, resting, and sleeping in public or private space with anything on top or underneath a person other than their clothing. The Mile High City has already experienced its first snowfall and as temperatures continue to drop, the ability for unhoused residents to be able to protect themselves from the elements is literally life-and-death.

Neither Mayor Hancock nor the city council implemented any of the suggestions in their entirety. In his 2020 spending plan, Mayor Hancock included $30 million for projects and programs funded through the Affordable Housing Fund (AHF), and $1 million in total funding for the Denver Day Works and Colfax Works programs.

The AHF uses most of their funds to produce and preserve “a wide spectrum” of housing needs, even for families of four who make $96,120 annually. The Triangle Works program, which employs unhoused individuals to do trash services on the streets, is within the Denver Day Works program, however it is unclear how much of the $1 million will go towards that specific program.

A pilot program that the mayor announced on August 23, which was not suggested by the 100-day action plan, supplies select Denver Police officers with non-perishable food items to give to Denver residents who appear to be in immediate need. Mayor Hancock said of the program:

“Our mission as a city has been and will continue to be ensuring that everyone in Denver has access to equity and opportunity, and that we never forget those who feel left behind – especially when our city is so successful.”

Unhoused residents and their advocates say that as long as the city continues to criminalize their acts of survival, they will continue to be left behind.

“As you say One Denver, as you say We Can Do Better, show me what the fuck your Do Better is! Show me! Because if your Do Better and your Togetherness and One Denver is not in line with what we want, then you not doin’ better. You’re fuckin’ up.” – Jerry Burton, DHOL member

Unicorn Riot coverage on Denver’s housing crisis and unhoused community: