To what extent is the ban based on the homeless specifically?

I think that's the immediate group that's affected, but from my perspective, there's not 100 percent of anything. I think you have individuals who don't have a place to go, you have people who choose to sleep outside, you have people with mental disorders and they can't stay in confined areas with folks. You have travelers, and I've met many. You have protesters as well. I think there are many facets of this, but I talk about the homeless because they are affected the most by an ordinance like this.

Why not just extend the "sit-lie" ordinance?

That is actually pushing the problem into other parts of the city. If you extend sit-lie, the neighborhoods that are already affected — the Ballpark, Curtis Park, San Rafael, Enterprise Hill — they are already impacted. There's already homeless individuals living in the alleyways, and then you're just pushing it further. The other reason is that for other councilmembers, when I presented it to them, it doesn't make sense. Why would I vote on something that's just for the downtown area? My thing is that this is the economic engine of the city. This is our living room, the 16th Street Mall. We all are investing in taxpayers and businesses. It's the place we bring people when they come here; we should invest in it. But they wanted something for the districts, as well.

What other options did you consider?

What I fundamentally disagree with is lying out in front of a struggling small business that's just trying to make it. So I was thinking of what it would look like to have business improvement districts within the city, or local maintenance districts, but that's very complex in how to define that and how to know when you're in one.

What is your reaction when you see "Homes Not Handcuffs" buttons and hear accusations of criminalization?

You saw how much it's going to cost for us to release those 300 extra beds: $340,000. We're making an investment. To me, that's not criminalizing the homeless. Part of the thing is that these are chronically homeless, so they will be arrested for quality-of-life issues: drunkenness in public, urinating in public. But if these individuals had a 24-hour facility and we were able to give them services to come and change that direction, you'd begin to see some change there. As a city, this is where civil liberties and government start to meet. We're very compassionate, and we're going to figure it out. But I don't want us to be silly.

You can sit and hypothesize every rule in Denver right now. Since the 1920s, there's been a rule enacted that you can't sleep in parks. It's interesting that no one's ever fought that.

Why enact the ban now — not two years ago, not in two years? And what happens if it's delayed?

Tonight, 300 to 600 people, maybe more and maybe less, will be sleeping outside. All of us as a city could take care of this tomorrow. All of us could give money and figure out a solution and build something tomorrow. I find it very interesting that people are saying, "This is uncompassionate. It's inhumane. But I'm asleep tonight knowing there's three to six hundred people who do not have a place to lay their head."

To me, the most immediate solution is churches. We have hundreds of churches that are closed six days a week. I know people have all these religious connotations, and that's fine, but a church in Denver right now under our zoning code can house eight people. I think that's an excellent opportunity. If five churches took that on, they could take forty people off the streets, especially women and children and teenagers. We have gaping holes — of course — because we're never supposed to or prepared to be responsible for the counties. We are not the Metro County Homeless Organization of Downtown Denver.

Aside from the faith-based arena, what other communities are key to the ban's potential?

Neighborhoods working with the faith communities. I'm not just saying churches: mosques, churches and temples are excellent opportunities. But I also think — and this is going to sound crazy to the business community — that hotel owners and motel owners and bed-and-breakfast folks can help. It doesn't have to be twenty rooms. Two — and working with that person who can't be around other folks. There's been a lot of remarks on my Facebook, and I just say, "Hey, what are you doing today?" Let me tell you what I did: I opened up a church in my district.

To what extent is it Denver's responsibility to provide shelter for each person who might be displaced by the ban?

It's not the government's responsibility to take care of each and every person. I believe lean, efficient governments should and can provide opportunities, especially for those who have fallen on hard times. The problem is that we've created a society that accepts handouts and doesn't take opportunities and wants to continue to get those, and that's the hard piece about this.

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16 comments
Guest
Guest

If Carlton Banks (Albus Brooks) hates homeless people so much, why doesn't he just move back to Bel-Air? Problem solved.

Hot Sauce in my Bag
Hot Sauce in my Bag

Why do you hate local small business people so much? See I can do it too

Sarah Hidey
Sarah Hidey

It appears that this ordinance is a result of profits coming before people. There were compromises/amendments on the table that would have ensured expanded services for the homeless were present BEFORE the ordinance was passed. But at every juncture, it seems that Albus Brooks was not interested in compromise because the votes were there to get it passed as is. I can't speak for Brooks' intentions, but the lack of openness and seeming arrogance that came through in this article and other outlets really has made me lose faith in the progressive, inspirational leader I thought he was.

Denverite
Denverite

Albus Brooks and Mayor Hancock should beRepublicans. Can't wait to vote them out. They are sneaky in their dealings.

Concerned
Concerned

During hard economic times with many people out of work, it seems a jobs creation bill would be more appropriate for those capable of working. It's so sad that the homeless situation is being addressed by a bill that makes poverty a crime.

Anonymous

calhounp
calhounp

I'd like to publish some of these comments in our print edition, ideally with the author's full name/town. If that's okay, e-mail me at patricia.calhoun@westword.com

jimmie c boswell
jimmie c boswell

passing any law, that is against, your antiG-D religious beliefs. is still, unconstitutional too.

did any of you ever consider, that G-D is attempting to give you a wake up call? so why do any of you, think that G-D, is pissed enough at you all, to command this to happen?

and it sure is a sign, that G-D is not pleased with any of you. and G-D is still in charge, till the end of the sixth day here in, TheTorah.

and if you think, G-D'S Son is going to give you a break. when G-D puts Him in charge again, for the soon to be seventh day. you might want to, reconsider that errant thought. cause if you have all made G-D, that angry at you all. then He is not exactly going to be, a happy camper either.

jimmie c boswell
jimmie c boswell

yeah! and while were at it, lets just make the symptoms of cancer illegal too. since the cause of the problem, does not truly want it solved. because there government jobs, depend upon creating problems they bever want to cure.

Buck Burgett
Buck Burgett

Stick to your guns Mayor Michael Hancock. Your analysis is correct. The people that are against this are the very ones that created this mess.

Robert
Robert

Thank you Councilman Brooks for doing the right thing. As someone that lives downtown, I applaud your efforts.

As someone that has had homeless drunks passed out in the doorway to my building, I invite the opponents of this ordinance to have these people hang out in the entry to your home and then tell me that this isn't an issue.

I see the same characters day after day doing nothing but drinking, taunting visitors on the 16th street mall and then passing out our relieving themselves on the street. This makes our city look bad to tourists, visitors and those that are thinking about locating a business downtown. There has been so much progress in creating a vibrant downtown and something needs to be done to keep it as a visitor-friendly place. People will stop investing in a locale that appears unsafe and one way to make a place look rundown or dangerous is to have hundreds of homeless people wandering the streets.

There are certainly those that have fallen on tough times, but there is a larger majority that simply don't want to conform and instead of working to better themselves, they find it easier to do nothing. Just read the other story in Westword about urban camping. The young couple--who ask me for money almost daily--have no interest in bettering their lives; and if the ordinance passes, they will just find a new city and the pattern of doing nothing will continue. Or, talk to the Occupy Denver "protestors" which don't really protest as much as vandalize, litter and do drugs.

James
James

I agree. Can't stand all the dirty homeless vagrants! Can't we form some sort of camps for them? Let's get them all together in one place & contain them. You're right on Robert. Time to cleanse/ clean up our society!

We need more people who look like Robert & me! Conform or get out of our city & my neighborhood!

Jason
Jason

I was disheartened when I emailed Mr. Brooks, my councilperson, inquiring about his office hours and I learned that he had NO open office hours. I also emailed him my questions and concerns and never received an email back. It seems as though Mr. Brooks didn't do his due diligence when crafting this plan if so many people and organizations feel as though they have not been a part of the process. A thoughtful and systemic solution to this complex problem is needed but if many of the key stakeholders are not at the table I doubt that this will be found.

 
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