With arguments concluded, Denver County Judge Johnny Barajas will consider the legality of Denver’s urban camping ban.
Jerry Burton received a citation under the law and decided to challenge it on the grounds that shelter capacity was insufficient to house every person living on the street.
As reported in Denverite, Chris Conner, director of Denver’s homeless services, acknowledged that while data showed available beds for single adult men, other subsets of the homeless population would have more difficulty securing a shelter spot, such as young people or couples.
Conner said that the camping ban “gives first responders the opportunity to contact people who may be experiencing homelessness and bring them to services.”
The challenge comes as courts in other states have voided camping bans and panhandling prohibitions.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals invalidate Boise’s camping ban on the grounds that it was cruel and unusual punishment.
“As long as there is no option of sleeping indoors, the government cannot criminalize indigent, homeless people for sleeping outdoors, on public property, on the false premise they had a choice in the matter,” the court wrote.
Boise is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to consider an appeal. This fall, the Downtown Denver Partnership submitted a brief supporting the city, arguing that a “judicially created ‘right to habitate’ public spaces with a patina of constitutional supremacy” would affect cities’ ability to address homelessness, public health and safety.
Barajas also heard about the negative effects from urban camping, which can include litter, fire hazards and undisposed-of drug paraphernalia.
This spring, Denver voters overwhelmingly upheld the law after a measure to repeal urban camping landed on the ballot.