Illegal to Camp in the City of Denver?

Many of you have recently heard of the new “Homeless Camping Ban” in the city of Denver. You have asked us, “What is this going to do to your friends? What do you guys think about the new ban?”

In response to that, I want to first of all say thank you so much for caring. I am seeing responses from the Dry Bones community across the nation that demonstrate how you all think from the head and from the heart. I appreciate that so much. Thank you for your genuine concern.

Every Dry Bones staff member has been passionately against this new law for many different reasons. First and foremost, we oppose the law because it continues to make life that much more difficult for our friends who already have a difficult load to carry. The new law speaks a message to our friends that they are hearing loud and clear, “YOU are unwanted here. You ‘tarnish’ our city. This is not your city. You need to move on.” Life on the streets is filled with daily opportunities to hear that message – verbally and nonverbally. The publicity and promotion of fear that surrounds this new law is speaking that message directly to our friends’ hearts this month. The city has justified this new law into their books for reasons that we oppose whole-heartedly.  However, we understand that this law comes from a political and financially driven motivation.

Seeking to serve and bring about Kingdom change and perspective with a “power under” style, we had meetings and a lot of email communication with the city councilman who personally submitted the ordinance. We’re thankful for his friendship and the promises that he made to work towards more shelter space for those being affected by his new law regardless of our strong disagreement. In the end, no amount of conversation was able to change his mind. In fact, 9 of 13 Denver city council members voted for the ban on camping on May 14. The 4 who were against the law made beautiful speeches that echoed much of what you all and the staff of Dry Bones are feeling and have been saying.

We also recognize that there are a few of you who do support the new ban and feel that it is a good move to force “solutions” and/or to “clean up” the city. We’re happy to disagree and still remain friends and family with you too.

So now what? I won’t go in to all the details and debate around the new law since you can read more than you could ever desire online. Here are a few basic conclusions and then some actions…

It is our belief that the new ordinance:

  • Will create additional stress on the streets for those in the situation of homelessness – having to be more creative with sleeping conditions and eventually dealing with tickets, jail time, and warrants
  • (Tickets and incarceration inevitably make reentry into society very difficult as a person begins to work hard on life-changes, finding work, and housing.)
  • Will potentially allow for abuse of power from certain policemen upon the homeless
  • Will disperse and push our most vulnerable friends into deeper and darker corners of the streets (living with older men, in drug houses, with pimps, less-safe campsites, etc)
  • Violates many basic human rights
  • Will perpetuate the message of “You don’t belong in our society” among our friends and continue to decrease self-worth and value
  • Is short-sighted and mean-spirited
  • Will not cause the sky to fall 

At the same time, we hope that the ordinance will:

  • Force the city of Denver to pay closer attention to the lack of housing and resources available to Denver’s struggling homeless
  • Give Dry Bones staff the opportunity to talk about greater “hope for the future” as we remind kids that the streets are not where they want to live forever anyway
  • Provide opportunities to continue to come alongside our friends struggling in life
  • Provide opportunities to educate the housed about the realities of the houseless and decrease unrealistic fears
  • Build stronger relationships with city leaders as they seek to follow through on promises and practical solutions for those struggling on Denver’s streets

What can you do?

 If you live in Denver

  • Contact your city councilman or councilwoman and urge them to follow through on promises made for more services during this season of discussion.
  • Talk to your local church and urge them to open their doors at night to serve as shelter space (City law clearly allows for some great opportunities for your church. Contact Councilman Albus Brooks if your church is willing and able to step up to the plate!)
If you live here or anywhere else 

  • Research your city’s laws specifically aimed at homeless folks. (There are approximately 45 cities that now outlaw urban camping.) Begin working to creatively place “power under” those struggling in your hometown.
  • Send a donation to Dry Bones marked specifically for “Emergency Backpacks.” We are currently looking into purchasing specific large backpacks that will hold all belongings of our friends so that they can pack up and move down the street quickly if approached by police. As leaving belongings at a campsite will now be illegal, our friends will be carrying more on their backs throughout the daytime.
  • Pray for miraculous and solid solutions to life’s most difficult issues.
  • Seek solutions within yourselves and your community that rely on God and His Kingdom above all other sources.