Denver Direct: Criminalizing homelessness
Sunday, April 1, 2012
|Old parking meter re-purposed for donation collection at Colfax and York – apparently not getting much use|
As Denver City Council prepares to take up the issue of criminalizing homelessness (with an ordinance carried by Albus Brooks), I had to reflect on one of my first blog posts here at Denver Direct. From April 19, 2005:
Let’s see, you are homeless and you have to pee. No luck at the filling station because RESTROOMS FOR CUSTOMERS ONLY. No luck at the park because the porta-potties are gone.
So you duck behind a dumpster, and five-oh rolls up on you and now you have a ticket, which turns into a warrant for your arrest when you don’t show up at court. You could have put up $100 bond and forfeited it when you didn’t show up, but of course you don’t have $100. If you are arrested later, you will generally serve 1 day in jail for each $100 ticket. Loitering, littering, public drunkenness, sleeping in the park, solicitation of passengers … wait a minute, what’s that last one? Solicitation of passengers?
That was the charge against a homeless man I know. Here is the ordinance: Sec. 39-20. Solicitation of passengers prohibited. It shall be unlawful for any person to solicit passage for any vehicle for hire or gratis upon any park premises without special permission in writing from the manager of parks and recreation. This ticket was issued by officer Patrick Mulhern on August 16, 2004, to a person who was not in a park and had no vehicle.
After this man was arrested on March 30, 2005 and taken to jail, a hearing was held before Judge J Marcucci, who said he did not understand the original charge, so he left it in place and added another violation Sec 39-7. Here is that ordinance: Sec. 39-7. Camping and erection of tents and buildings prohibited. (a) It shall be unlawful for any person to camp or otherwise sleep overnight in or upon any park, parkway, mountain park or other recreational facility, without first having obtained a permit to do so from the manager of parks and recreation. (b) It shall be unlawful for any person, other than authorized personnel, to build or place any tent, building, shack, booth, stand or other structure in or upon any park, parkway, mountain park or other recreational facility, without first having obtained a permit to do so from the manager of parks and recreation.
This man was not sleeping, had no tent, and was not in a park – he was panhandling at 17th and York. Amazingly, Marcucci sentenced him to 5 days in jail. I have to ask myself what the purpose of this incarceration might be. To punish this guy for breaking these laws? No. This is harassment pure and simple. This is one reason we have “overcrowding” in our jail.
Seven years and over 1000 posts later, not much has changed. Thanks to Denver Diatribe for kicking the subject around again (starts at about the 12:30 mark).
Addendum: Here’s a site called Invisible People with homeless people telling their stories.
at 8:12 AM
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