Let’s check in on the activist behind the ban on the camping ban now that Denver’s government says it will resume enforcement – Denverite

The activist whose challenge led to a judge declaring Denvers urban camping ban unconstitutional has an idea for how the city could spend what it costs to appeal the legal ruling and police people who are experiencing homelessness.

The money should be used to subsidize people living on the streets to be moving into some of these luxury apartments, Jerry Burton said in an interview Tuesday. I just think what the city is doing is a waste of money.

Burton, who predicted the city would lose its appeal, spoke a day after the city attorneys office said police would resume enforcing the urban camping ban. Since officers suspended enforcement on Dec. 27, people experiencing homelessness have erected tents at Civic Center Park and elsewhere in Denver.

Ryan Luby, spokesman for the City Attorneys Office, said Monday that suspending enforcement was a step taken out of an abundance of caution. He said the city read the judges ruling narrowly and had decided to resume enforcement of the ban. Luby said enforcement would resume sometime this week.

Attorney Andy McNulty, who represented Burton in his challenge of the camping ban, said Denver officials decision to resume enforcement shows a lot about how much they care about the constitution.

McNulty said he could take legal action on behalf of someone affected by the renewed enforcement and was considering doing so.

Burton no longer lives on the streets as he was April 29 when his case began with a police officer issuing him a ticket under the ban enacted by City Council in 2012. The ban outlaws on public property such activities as eating, sleeping or storing belongings while sheltering with tents, tarps or blankets.

According to police statistics covering the period from the bans enactment in 2012 through 2019, police have contacted nearly 24,000 people who appeared to violate the ban but issued only 33 tickets. Police made three arrests.

City officials say the ban is necessary to protect health and safety and also provides a way to connect people experiencing homelessness to services. The law requires police officers to prioritize getting people to comply by asking, and to get help for those who need it. Denver police dont often issue tickets or make arrests under the camping ban.

People experiencing homelessness testified during Burtons trial that encounters with police are stressful and led them to avoid covering themselves even in cold weather. The ban caused them to seek out places where they would not be approached, but which could also be unsafe.

Burton, an activist with the advocacy group Denver Homeless Out Loud, insisted on being given the ticket that led to his trial.

We were trying to fight the constitutionality of this, Burton testified during four days of court hearingsheld over two and a half weeks late last year.

Denver County Judge Johnny Barajas held the hearings to explore a request from Burton that his camping ban charge be dismissed because the law was unconstitutional. In his Dec. 27 ruling, Barajas cited evidence presented during the hearings that Denvers shelters are inadequate and that the ban violates constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment for that reason.

The city had argued before Barajas that its shelters met emergency needs. Not addressed in the hearings during Burtons trial were city plans to improve shelters to serve more people and help transition them to permanent housing.

Barajas dismissed the criminal case against Burton. He included nothing in his ruling on what broader action the city should take regarding the camping ban.

Burtons Denver Homeless Out Loud had tried and failed last year to persuade Denver voters to overturn the ban. The group also tried and failed repeatedlyto get the state legislature to overturn the camping ban.

Luby, the City Attorneys Office spokesman, said this week that resuming enforcement of the band depended on a number of different factors that were still trying to sort out. He would not elaborate.

They said, Everybody get up, get up. You all got to get up, Youve got to move,' Hunter said.

He said the officers did not stay long. Interviewed later Tuesday, Hunter said he would be moving and would try to find a camping spot that would draw less attention.

Hunter, who said hed just gotten word he would get work as a roofer, said he avoids shelters.

Ive got a thing against bed bugs. Id rather sleep outside, he said.

Denver health officials announced late Tuesday they planned an emergency cleanup near Civic Center on Wednesday. The operation began Wednesday with police closing Lincoln Memorial Park between Civic Center Park and the state Capitol and telling people to remove their tents and other belongings from the park. Ann Cecchine-Williams, deputy executive director of the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment, said the closure is for public health and safety. Danica Lee, director of public health investigations for the city, said a pregnant woman reported that a rat had chewed into her tent while she was sleeping.

Its just not a good environment, Lee said.

Such clean-ups, which are not related to the camping ban, are regulated under a settlement in a federal lawsuit unrelated to Burtons trial. Thesettlement finalized in September generally requires the city to give a weeks warning in writing before clean-up crews move in and to ensure the return of property confiscated during clearances, but officials can act without giving notice in cases of a public health emergency.

Activist Burton said that people were choosing the streets over shelters, not over housing in a city where housing costs have risen faster than wages.

Its not about sleeping outside. Its about they cant afford a place in the city of Denver, Burton said. Youre working every day, but you cant afford an apartment in the city where you work.

Im not advocating for people to sleep outside, Burton said. Im saying, if the system has failed them, they have a right to do what they need to do to survive.

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Let's check in on the activist behind the ban on the camping ban now that Denver's government says it will resume enforcement - Denverite

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