Voters in Denver last week overwhelmingly rejected Initiative 300, a ballot question that sought to give homeless people the right to camp in public places. Some 81 percent of voters opposed the measure (145,649 opposed, 33,685 for).
The ballot question, dubbed the “Right to Survive,” would have overturned the city’s urban camping ban and declared that everyone has the right to rest, eat and shelter in public places without being harassed. (See the background story here.)
While supporters said the measure would shield Denver’s estimated 3,445 people experiencing homelessness from unfair citations and arrests, it faced fierce opposition from businesses and environmental and social service organizations. Opponents argued that the measure would allow dangerous encampments to proliferate without helping to house people.
There is a homeless person for every 180 Denver residents. In Flagler, the ratio is one homeless person for every 845 residents, though that’s based on the last “point-in-time” count of the homeless, which found 130 homeless people in the county. The number is considered an undercount. Still, the proportion of homeless people in Flagler is nowhere near that of urban centers like Denver, though the issue has been in the forefront of social and political discussions in Palm Coast.
Together Denver, the opposition campaign, raised over $2.3 million, according to the most recent campaign finance data. The Right to Survive committee raised just $99,000. The National Association of Realtors contributed $200,000 to oppose the measure, as did the Downtown Denver Partnership.
The measure would “potentially create new civil and criminal liability and legal causes of action against private individuals, homeowners, businesses, city employees and city government. This likely would create a chilling effect for police officers, park rangers, health inspectors and other city officials to enforce laws and may make them reluctant to assist those in need,” a Denver city government impact assessment stated. “While jurisdictions such as Rhode Island, Puerto Rico, Illinois and Connecticut have passed Homeless Bills of Rights, this measure differs. It explicitly overrides existing laws and makes it a crime for law enforcement agencies or other entities to violate the rights established by the measure.”
“This campaign has reminded us that Denver is a compassionate community that cares deeply about both its people and its public places,” Together Denver tweeted Tuesday night. “While most voters agreed that Initiative 300 was not the right path forward for Denver, this is not the end of the discussion.”
The campaign said it hopes its supporters will work together to advance “practical approaches to supporting people experiencing homelessness today and address the underlying drivers of homelessness in Denver.”
The advocates for homeless people behind the initiative say they’re going to keep fighting to improve the situation on Denver’s streets.
“We’re going to hold the people who were elected tonight accountable,” Raffi Mercuri, the Initiative 300 campaign manager, told the Westword newsletter. “And we’ll hold the people that funded our opposition accountable. They spread a message that this wasn’t the solution, and that ‘We Can Do Better’ — so it’s time to do better.”
–FlaglerLive and Stateline
Text of the initiative as it appeared on the ballot:
“Shall the voters of the City and County of Denver adopt a measure that secures and enforces basic rights for all people within the jurisdiction of the City and County of Denver, including the right to rest and shelter oneself from the elements in a non-obstructive manner in outdoor public spaces, to eat, share accept or give free food in any public space where food is not prohibited, to occupy one’s own legally parked motor vehicle, or occupy a legally parked motor vehicle belonging to another, with the owner’s permission, and to have a right and expectation of privacy and safety of or in one’s person and property?”
See the full text here.