I often find it hard to title Invisible People videos. Jerry is a homeless veteran on the streets of Denver. He shares about the actual realities of life on the streets. Jerry has also been ticketed three times by the city of Denver for “urban camping.” Denver, like many cities in America, continues to pass laws that criminalize homeless people for the crime of not being able to afford rent.
Jerry is a Marine veteran. He says, “I fought for these rights. I fought to be able to choose how I want to live my life if I don’t want to go to a shelter.” Jerry goes on to explain how shelters are either full or horrible places, so he’d rather pitch a tent. Criminalizing homelessness and giving tickets to people who have no other choice but to pitch a tent and sleep outside makes zero sense. Criminalization does nothing to end homelessness and is a complete waste of taxpayer money.
I met Jerry in the offices of Denver Homeless Out Loud, a local advocacy group fighting for the rights of our homeless neighbors. This year, Denver Homeless Out Loud made the impossible happen by contesting Denver’s urban campaign ban by getting Initiative 300 on the ballot. Initiative 300 was defeated because of the well-funded opposition, so it remains illegal for people to shelter themselves in public.
Another issue is when a homeless person enters the criminal justice system, it makes it even harder for them to find employment. Without a shower, a place to sleep, or transpiration, homelessness is hard enough to get an employer to hire you. Adding a criminal record makes it impossible. Here is the link to the post we talked about in the video: How One Citation Can Ruin A Homeless Person’s Life Forever.
Homeless people in Denver asked the city for porta-potties and trash pickup, which also help the public too. Instead, the mayor of Denver responded with aggressive homeless sweeps. Cities frequently will sweep a homeless encampment and move on. According to Jerry and Denver Out Loud, Denver sweeps an area continually over 24 hours making it impossible for homeless people to return. Because there is no place for homeless people to go, this type of aggressive criminalization just displaces people and does nothing to help solve the homeless crisis.
Because of the affordable housing crisis, homelessness continues to grow. More people, even with full-time jobs, have trouble paying rent. Unless we all take action, this crisis will continue to get worse.
Your voice can help end homelessness. If we do not fix the affordable housing crisis, homelessness will continue to get worse. Click here to tweet, email, call, or Facebook your federal and state legislators to tell them ending homelessness and creating more affordable housing is a priority to you.