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Colorado: The Right to Flop


April 22, 2015

I believe that homelessness, the causes for which are many and complex, should be addressed before the fact, with policies and social norms that encourage strong families, moral conduct, and personal accountability. Let’s start with NOT MAKING MARIJUANA LEGAL, ABUNDANT AND CHEAP!

Colorado Democrats introduced a bill into the State Legislature titled, “The Colorado Right to Rest Act.” I’m not kidding. But before I eviscerate this silly piece of legislative drivel, let’s have some background and analyze why Denver has become a magnet for “homeless” folk.

It is clear that legalized marijuana exacerbates homelessness for a number of reasons:

The summary of the “Colorado Right to Rest Act,” also known as the “Homeless Persons Bill of Rights,” reads:

“The bill creates the “Colorado Right to Rest Act,” which establishes basic rights for person experience homelessness, including, but not limited to, the right to use and move freely in public spaces without discrimination, to rest in public spaces without discrimination, to eat or accept food in any public space where food is not prohibited, to occupy a legally parked vehicle, and to have a reasonable expectation of privacy of one’s property. A person whose rights have been violated may seek enforcement in a civil action, and a court may award relief and damages as appropriate. The bill does not create an obligation for a provider of services for persons experiencing homelessness to provide shelter or services when none are available.”

Yes people, this bill would give homeless people the RIGHT to sue your butt for just about any reason. Restaurants, bars, theaters, public buildings, garages, stairwells, hallways, would be turned, overnight, into flop houses, with little or no recourse for people patronizing such commercial establishments or just walking about the city.

As for occupying a “legally parked vehicle,” this bleeding heart mishmash fails to say whether or not the vehicle has to be the property of the homeless dude occupying it. One has to ask whether or not kicking a homeless person out of the back or your F-1050 would expose you to a lawsuit!

And, accepting and eating food “in any public space where food is not prohibited” may be interpreted just about anyway an ACLU lawyer can imagine. Libraries and government offices are public spaces. Court houses and police stations are public spaces. It’s possible that, under this bill, homeless people could brownbag it in the Capitol Rotunda, or the atrium of the library, or the steps of the county courthouse. Pigeons would be ecstatic, but those using public buildings, not so much.

And let’s not forget that a significant percentage of Denver’s homeless are unabashed potheads. It is currently illegal for ordinary citizens to smoke marijuana in open public spaces in Colorado. But, since the “Right to Rest Act” creates special rights for homeless people, it is likely that requiring a homeless guy to douse the doobie he’s smoking on the steps of the Capitol, will be deemed discriminatory, and therefore punishable under this stupid law.

I encourage you all to read the “Right to Rest Act” in its entirety here:

Carving out special rights for homeless folks in Colorado will inevitably attract more homeless folks to the state, and since legalized recreational pot is already a massive hobo magnet, this problem will surely become more unmanageable. Long story short, the “Right to Rest Act” aka “Homeless Persons Bill of Rights” is stupid and doomed to failure.

I believe that homelessness, the causes for which are many and complex, should be addressed before the fact, with policies and social norms that encourage strong families, moral conduct, and personal accountability. Let’s start with NOT MAKING MARIJUANA LEGAL, ABUNDANT AND CHEAP! Homelessness is often preventable because the causes of homelessness usually result from personal choices. Much of the time, substance abuse, alcoholism, criminality, mental illness, illegitimacy, human sex trafficking, unemployment, and illness can and should be be addressed before involuntary homelessness occurs.  Homelessness is not something that just happens to otherwise decent people. And the more homelessness is made to be comfortable and empowering, the more the problem will grow.  The unfortunate circumstances of homelessness do not obligate citizens to accommodate their needs by making outdoor mess halls of our public spaces, and flop houses of any place they may choose to bed down for the night.

As a thought exercise, just imagine that HB-1264 is passed through the Colorado Legislature, and you’re standing in line at City Grille to get a 1,400 calorie steakburger. Milling about on the sidewalk are some homeless people, panhandling, playing their ukuleles, smelling like old socks and Gorgonzola cheese, and there is nothing you nor the proprietor of the restaurant can do to prevent them from begging for money or food or crowding the entrance to the place, because to do so could expose you to charges of civil rights violations. Thus, your rights as a citizen are diminished, as are the rights of the owner of City Grille, to create a safe, clean, pleasant public space for his patrons. Are you thinking about this? Good. Then let’s get real, people. Perhaps a more appropriate name for HB-1264 would be “The Colorado Right to Stink Act.”

Posted by the callous Marjorie Haun  4/22/15

 

 

 

 

  1. Benjamin Donlon

    Hello, I am responsible for this bill being introduced.

    I have read your concerns and I would like to address these concerns in public if possible, but can be done through this medium of your blog.

    The intent of the bill is to save the City money by stopping over-enforcement of petty crimes. There is real crime in this city, and it is not smelling bad, but foreclosing on families and raising the rent market beyond sustainable levels.

    Criminalization of the homeless leads to a higher homeless population over time, as people are unable to escape the cycle of poverty by maintaining a job without arrest while being homeless.

    The shelter capacity, according to the point in time survey is only 1/4th of the overall official numbers. The unofficial numbers being higher.

    http://mdhi.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/2014-City-and-County-of-Denver-PIT-One-Page-Overview-and-Charts.pdf

    Furthermore, if you look at previous point in time surveys, you would see a gradual increase in the number of homeless over the course of the last twenty years, especially since Ex-President Reagan slashed affordable housing and mental health facilities to record low federal funding.

    The correlation of marijuana is a minor correlation compared to the rising rent market over the past couple years with the foreclosure rate bubbles of 2008 and onwards.

    Analysis of affordable housing in this State should also be evaluated before presuming that the influx is from out of state rather then people in-state losing their homes and jobs from the market.

    The real criminals are bankers in this State that do not care if they actually have the deed or not before trying to foreclose on your home.

    To address the rights we have detailed, they are rights that everyone should have. Do you feel you should have the right to sleep outside when you choose? Do you feel like a God-Given right such as living outside is necessary? If not, please continue to not support this bill.

    Additionally, this is for public space, not private space. The doorways of businesses is not public space. A park, is public space. The River bed, is public space. Sleeping on the sidewalk is obstruction of a public passageway and would not be made legal.

    Sleeping in cars is a common practice and currently helps people maintain a job until they can afford rent for a home. It is suggested that only with the permission of the owner can they sleep in that car, or if they own the car. It does not legalize the ability to break into cars, which is a crime, and then occupy in stolen property, which will also be a crime still.

    Furthermore, the amount of money saved by Cities, which will be a significant gain, will hopefully be directed to services and shelters to help provide a stronger support system to encourage healthier stronger families in the long run.

    Without dealing with the basic infringements of our freedoms, we will never be able to deal with the systemic problems that we will face in the future.

    I hope that you will engage me in discourse so that we may talk about this further. Thank you for your time and interest in this issue.

    – Benjamin

    • Have you considered the unintended consequences of creating special rights for the homeless and the impact that will have on property owners, pedestrians, and law enforcement officers. That is the crux of my complaint. You cannot create special rights for one group of people without infringing upon the rights of others. Your compassion should not be limited to the homeless but to all.

      • Shoreline1

        “As a thought exercise, just imagine that HB-1264 is passed through the Colorado Legislature, and you’re standing in line at City Grille to get a 1,400 calorie steakburger. Milling about on the sidewalk are some homeless people, panhandling, playing their ukuleles, smelling like old socks and Gorgonzola cheese, and there is nothing you nor the proprietor of the restaurant can do to prevent them from begging for money or food or crowding the entrance to the place…”

        Consider that these homeless people have an equal right to be on the sidewalk as those standing in line for a steakburger (while dressed nicely and smelling sweet), even though they smell like old socks and cheese and do not have enough money for a burger due to circumstances that are possibly beyond their control. It seems to me that you want “special rights” to deny them their rights, and to punish them additionally by not allowing them to be certain public locations without a government approved odor. Or how about a citizen classification system based upon how each individual smells, or what their job, salary, societal function or usefulness is?

        It could be that there are those that require greater assistance to survive in our society than others, for a variety of reasons. Although everyone is equal in the eyes of the law, not everyone was created equal. And even with this suggested law, it is doubtful that the poor, homeless, and disconnected members of our society will run out and hire and attorney to defend themselves. If they could afford an attorney, they wouldn’t be in the situation under consideration.

        And are you suggesting that ukulele music is less than wonderful?

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