Mollohan's a pretty positive guy, and his attitude about the proposed ban is surprisingly good-humored. "Yeah, you hear all this garbage," he chuckles. "What are they doing now, they're saying you can't be on private property? It's public property? I mean, I can understand like doorways and stuff like that — I can understand that. But my thing is, they say you can't sleep on public property, my question is, what does the American Civil Liberties Union have to say about that?"

The ACLU is indeed opposed to this proposal, but it could be fighting a losing battle; dozens of cities around the country have bans similar to the one that's now on the table, as Assistant City Attorney David Broadwell has pointed out. Since 2005, Denver's so-called "sit-lie" ordinance has ruled the 16th Street Mall during the hours of dawn and dusk, basically unchallenged, dictating that no one sit too long or lie down during those hours. For now, though, all bets are off at night.

Midnight, 16th Street Mall at Stout

Matthew and Brittney Adams are ready for their wake-up call. View a Sleeping on the 16th Street Mall slide show.
Britt Chester
Matthew and Brittney Adams are ready for their wake-up call. View a Sleeping on the 16th Street Mall slide show.

Mike Eigsti has been homeless for fifteen years, and he doesn't really give a shit if the city passes the ban. "I'd just find somewhere else to sleep," he says. The only reason he sleeps downtown now, he explains, is "the suburbs are kind of barren."

The densest concentration of homeless folk is between California and Champa, where the doorways have been filling up and many people are already bedded down for the night, although a few remain on the move. A guy hanging around in front of the Walgreens tries to hustle a few bucks when I ask questions, as though he's some kind of informant. A few doors down, another guy strumming a battered guitar in front of a closed sandwich shop gets pissy when I stop to talk. "I'm trying to make my living out here," he snaps. He strums a few more chords for an audience of nobody.

12:30 a.m., Market Street Station

One frat boy sleeps on a bench, ignored by security. Otherwise, the bus station is deserted. We head all the way to the far end of the mall, into the construction past Union Station, then turn around and start working our way back to Civic Center. A paddy wagon rolls by and the deputy inside eyeballs a homeless guy sleeping upright on a bench in a coat so puffy it obscures his face, but the vehicle keeps moving.

1:45 a.m., 16th Street Mall at California

A couple of rickshaw hustlers are lounging in their pedicabs outside the Appaloosa Grill, waiting for closing time. About twenty feet away, a shockingly large pile of still-steaming pink vomit provides evidence that the trickling-out of drunks is already under way.

"I don't blame them for sleeping here," says Carrie Lander, a compact twenty-something in a T-shirt and messenger cap. "It's so patrolled. I think it's ludicrous to say they're going to kick them out of here and then not give them a place to stay."

That's not entirely true. Denver's Road Home, the organization that administers the city's ten-year plan to end homelessness, which then-mayor John Hickenlooper started seven years ago, has tried to present the ban in terms of compassion, arguing that it would provide another mechanism for making contact with homeless people and then getting them into shelters, detox, even motels in some cases — all with the eventual goal of getting them off the street for good. The Denver Police Department, through Chief Robert White, has committed to not issuing a citation or making an arrest under a no-camping ordinance without the approval of a supervisor — at least for the first year. (According to the city, there's never been a citation issued under the "sit-lie" ordinance.) That would leave the bulk of the work to the DPD's four officers who work with the homeless, as well as Denver's Road Home outreach workers. On the other hand, even Denver's Road Home executive director Bennie Milliner admits that the city simply does not have the resources to help every homeless person. Not even close.

"I know a couple of these guys down here got my back if I ever got into trouble," Lander says now, turning to Tony Guise, her fellow rickshaw driver. "Don't you think Dingo would have my back?"

Guise nods thoughtfully. "These guys don't cause me any trouble. The most trouble I ever get is when my drunk-ass passengers want me to let them out so they can go fuck with these guys: 'Oh, let me out a minute, I want to go talk shit to this homeless dude.' It's like, fine, get out, ride's over, dickhead."

Across the street, a bum walks by belting a fairly impressive rendition of "I've Got a Feeling" at the top of his lungs. No law against that — yet.

Down the mall, two girls stumble past the Sheraton. Inside the hotel, eighteen TVs are all showing the same channel in the empty bar.

3:30 a.m., Civic Center Station

Denver City Councilman Albus Brooks, sponsor of the proposed ordinance, has said that it was inspired by a walk he took with his wife along the mall last summer, when they counted more than a hundred homeless people (the number seems to vary). At this moment, I do not see a single upright soul anywhere on the mall, so the time looks right to make my own official count. I retrace the sixteen blocks to Union Station, counting along the way. I tally 44 people asleep on the mall.

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40 comments
franklyscarlett
franklyscarlett

Our government and social system refuses to address the issue of homelessness in any holistic way. That person you pass on the street, keeps the workers on the straight and narrow. Must buy, must work, must suck it up and keep slaving away, must feed the economy all the best hours of the day and the best years of your life, because if not society has a special place for you the street. If you step out of line or if you just can't function then, forget it, you are treated like trash a public nuisance. They call it a homelessness problem but what it really is, is a failure of our society to treat its lowest member as a full human person.

Diane
Diane

Seriously what is wrong with you people. The homeless population needs and deserves love just like the rest of us. Open your hearts! On this Mother's Day take a walk down the mall or through the parks off of Park Ave and say hello. Smile. Buy a bag of socks from Walmart and some burgers from Burger King and pass them out. Teach your children compassion and caring. Believe me, you will feel the love.

Peace y'all!

Ball Park Resident
Ball Park Resident

Last night at about 7pm, I came home to find a man with his junk out peeing on my back porch, a very drunk homeless man for that matter. When I confronted said homeless man and told him to leave he said "fuck you I will kick your ass." I explained that I would be calling the cops and the man got violent and struck me. I struck him back and subsequently had him arrested.

This is the SECOND time I have been forced to defend myself in my own neighborhood because of the "Harmless" down trodden folks. I was mugged by a set of them just six month ago or so.

If you think this is an attack on the homeless, then so be it. They keep attacking me anyway, so I guess it is our turn.

K. Donnelly
K. Donnelly

"A paddy wagon rolls by"

This is an unacceptable ethnic slur. What's wrong with "police van"?

confused business man
confused business man

There has to be better places for "urban campers" than to interupt tax paying business'. I travel the country and never see the magnitude of business interuption that I see on the 16th street mall. How about keeping the independent business person in mind who pays taxes/salaries and customers arent afraid of shopping in an outdoor center.

concerned business person
concerned business person

So who stands up for the tax paying business people? How do you run a successful business on the 16th street mall when at 3:30 PM you have homeless people staking their claim for their spot to "camp" overnight? If I was a customer/ tourist from out of state, I would be nervous trying to buy a pair of sunglasses next to a homeless person who has all of his/her worldly possessions that I am almost stepping on. Not a very professional place to conduct business. Where does it say that a homeless person can stake claim of a public street/sidewalk and interfere with business people trying to make a living, paying taxes and paying employees salaries?

LuciousAtXo
LuciousAtXo

P.S. Every job I apply for wants to know my permanent address. The streets or a homeless shelter does not go over as well as Goochbite thinks. Perhaps stop munching on the area between a male's anus and ball sack and you will not be so upset and angry. Just a thought.

Peace

LuciousAtXo
LuciousAtXo

I am currently homeless living in Denver. I have 140 hours from what is labeled a "public Ivy league," the University of Texas. I mistakenly thought I could relate with "drug offenders" before doing time for possession in Texas. I also mistakenly thought I could relate with homelessness because of time served in Texas, but even behind bars there is food, a bed, and showers. From every corner of my Texas sized heart I thank every Church, and the individuals and families who support them, in the city of Denver who open their kitchens, bathrooms, and hearts to us every day. 8+)

Molly Santucci
Molly Santucci

What's wrong with these assholes getting a job like the rest of us? Young Sole you sound like a nigger to me. Bums are what those people are. Too bad the cops don't have big, giant scoops to put all those people in and toss them all into the garbage - cuz that's what they are, trash.

calhounp
calhounp

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

YOUNG SOLE
YOUNG SOLE

westword.... i am shocked at how commonly the term "bum" is used in this article, its a very derogatory term and the westword would be better served by not perpetuating its use.

sole

Goochbite
Goochbite

Fuck the homeless... I lost my job of 18 yrs,,, it took 3 days on craigslist to find a decent job. Freaken bums... if I gotta get up and go every moorning to support my family, why are these a holes standing on the corner begging for a buck so they can get high.... here's a tip for the girls that sleep and beg on the corner of sante fe and mississippi,,,, take yur top off , and then mabey I trow ya a buck or two... how bout u bums try and occupy a workplace instead of trying to sponge off everyone else.. there's a help wanted sign on every other coner down there... bums.... and get off the platte river, it'd be nice to take a walk on the trail w out seeing all yur trash and sleeping idiots out there.... and the so called occupy? U don't even know what your protesting, down w the big buisness, as I see you buying a starbucks w money u basically stole from holding a cardboard sign..... if ya can hold a sign all day, I'm sure ya could hold a mop. That's why when we roll outa bars at 2am you get kicked in the headd. Freaken bums....

Forgotmyname
Forgotmyname

I honestly don't think giving the homeless tickets will solve the problem if what they want to do is advocate for more homeless people to seek shelters and help. Why can't they use the medics and nurses on the street to advocate for that too?

I think its a waste of paper and time, when they could just open a night shelter in Denver just like the overflow system in the same area. Yes, you do have the money, because it just means several more workers. Those ticketing police enforcements can chaperone the night shelter randomly. It took me 5 minutes to think of this and the city took a whole 7 years to provide more tickets....they need to get more creative. (A bit upset).

Ticketing will just lower the credibility of the police force, because they're wasting time writing tickets when there are other criminals out there. Really? Tickets? Give them an outlet please.

Seoinnovation3
Seoinnovation3

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Mr. Farnfarnfarlus
Mr. Farnfarnfarlus

As someone who lives by Skyline Park and deals with the homeless (uneventfully mostly) every day. I support this ordinance.

Why? Not because they are sleeping on the sidewalk but because they are pooping on it, throwing their chicken bones on the ground, their trash on the ground, their everything on the ground...My dog tends to eat 20 chicken bones a year because apparently being homeless means you can't use a trash can.

I do feel bad about many of them and truthfully I couldn't pin point one that has given me trouble. But in general the Large amount of them add up to unsanitary conditions and unsafe conditions for residents of the city.

One question I've always had is are these people from colorado? Personally I think Colorado needs to look out for its own citizens before "train hoppers" that stop by here and there. Is there anyway to ensure that the homeless that "get help" are Colorado citizens?

The other night did tick me off though when two bums were fighting loudly for 15 minutes on the skyline sidewalk. I told a Police officer that the were about to throw down and she goes "oh no" and drives away. I actually saw her drive by about 10 minutes after that and never stop...Local security had to go over multiple times and chat with the fighting bums.

So although I support the ordinance I'm definitely up for debate or other recommendations.

Steven B.
Steven B.

Many of the fake homeless downtown cite their Constitutional right to be homeless and never work a job EVER!

Many live on welfare, and if Amendment 64 passes there will be more homeless down there as folks won't be able to pass the mandatory drug test to get a job.

We the taxpayers will be supporting their pot smoking habit.

No fucking way.

Clean up downtown, and vote NO to Amendment 64 in November.

blizzfull
blizzfull

They're going to let us vote on this, but they're going to shove CISPA so far up your ass you'll have a nose bleed. Enjoy your democracy mother fuckers!

Danshaffer2000
Danshaffer2000

In my opinion, this proposal has little to do with the homeless population and everything to do with shutting down Occupy Denver. The law is being put forth to give the city its justification for breaking up the Occupy "campers" for good and to assure the movement does not return.

Donkey Hotay
Donkey Hotay

When you have a home, "camping" = discretionary recreation

When you are homeless, "camping" = necessary survival

HTH.

Jenn the Mooch
Jenn the Mooch

I spent some homeless time as a teen, and I can empathize with the teen couple here who didn't want to stay at the shelter because of the "drama." Teen-oriented shelters and homes, from what I vividly recall, can be a nightmare with all of the theft, assaults, sexual harassment and interpersonal conflicts. I will venture to say that from my experience, these kids are running from fucked-up home lives, and they have easily accessed abuse triggers, so when you get a group of them together in a small space, things can get nasty.

I don't blame them for chancing it on the mall. There's drama on the street, too, but not the same and not as much.

After I'd used up all my "friend's couch" vouchers, I slept in parks and once, I lucked out and me and a buddy discovered an unlocked, abandoned semi cab with a sleeper, and we slept fine for almost a month until bigger, meaner people stole our "home."

We had a routine every day--get a sack lunch from the local Catholic church, donate plasma--"go plaz" and panhandle until we got enough cash for a cheap motel room and some booze.

It's a shitty life, and when people lecture you or tell you to get a fucking job or call you names it still fucking hurts--and helps nothing. To this day it drives me nuts to hear people abuse/taunt homeless people, and I'll check that shit when I see it. Everyone really should do the same.

And even if you don't want to give them your packet change, at least have some basic human compassion and get 'em a cup of coffee or a breakfast burrito. It cost very little to do a small good, and it costs nothing to not be a dick to people who are already in a shitty spot.

Good story, Mr. Otte.

Jtcolfax
Jtcolfax

This new law, combined with existing laws regarding homelessness is going to be a huge waste of time and money. HERE is a portrait of how things really are now-a-days. this is a video of Denver Health dumping patients off at Occupy Denver:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

franklyscarlett
franklyscarlett

the whole system is built for the tax-paying business people. That's why cops protect property and not the rights of humans.

1st world problems.
1st world problems.

Typical privilege capitalist response. Why don't we get to the root of the problem, rather than criminalizing the exploited class? Why are we using those tax paying dollars to arrest non-violent/homeless people who have nowhere else to go? I'm sure that the homeless people on the 16th street mall don't really effect business all that much, thousands of people shop there everyday. What we need are state run mental health facilities, public and easily accessible drug rehab centers and better jobs programs. And also, less classism.

Steven B.
Steven B.

Ever try Labor ready or even Ready Express!?!?

I mean there are ways to get a job and build up to a regular job.

When I was discharged from service with service-connected disabilities left me homeless for awhile living in my car in 91.

I was able to get part time work and build up from there without panhandling for cash, granted I don't do illicit drugs or drink booze.

It can be done just takes will power to do it.

Jenn the Godless
Jenn the Godless

Really classy there, toilet-mouth. If I was your momma, I'd smack you in the mouth with a bar of soap.

N*gger Man
N*gger Man

Wow.... what a senseless dumbass. Just use the "n" word with your picture and full name out there. I hope someone slaps the s*** out of you.one of these days :)

YOUNG SOLE
YOUNG SOLE

you are welcome to publish my name/town. tim holland. denver.

Steven B.
Steven B.

You can print my comment.

Steven B.Denver, CO.

Steven B.
Steven B.

"Bum" fits many of the bums that live off the government dole and refuse to work for a living smoking pot, doing other illicit drugs, and drinking booze all day panhandling for their next fix.

If it looks like a duck, quakes like a duck, then it must be a duck not a goose.

soahcalm
soahcalm

ever actually been homeless?....wanna know how hard it is to get hired if anyone suspects you dont have a home?......try not listing an address on an application. add that to the fact that most homeless pple do not own cars...and public transport sucks and costs money.....yes i was homeless and i do not do drugs or drink high price coffey. i just found myself loosing my rented apt because i had a car accident, lost my ride, my job, and my ability to work for about eight months.....(I kinda got banged up a bit) .....so if youve never slept out on the street, in a huge neck brace, i dont want to hear it.....shit happens, and to the best of people at times. Ill be you think that everyone on food stamps lives in a trailor and snorts pills too......your probably a republican by the way you sound an generalize pple.

Randall Flagg
Randall Flagg

Troll.

You dont kick anyone in the head,, you are too afraid of them to even approach them at all! Because your fighting skills are about as epic as your grammar skills.

You talk real tough on the interwebs.. lets see you do it IRL. ;) Go down to 16th st mall and make your proclamations there. Just warn me first so I can be there with my camera. Tell the women they should just prostitute themselves and kick the men in the head! Come on troll! You arent just some guy talking tough behind a keyboard... are you?

Randall Flagg
Randall Flagg

YEP! That SS scandal is all about distraction from CISPA.

Forgotmyname
Forgotmyname

Be honest sir. Occupy Denver has nothing to do with pooping in public and causing havoc randomly on street corners. I have to agree that the homeless is unsightly and there might be some violence involved, but ticketing is a very oustere and wasteful effort. Besides, they are not there to "Occupy Denver." I think they're there because they are having fun that there are more people who want to camp out and it helps them get the word out to get more help. "Occupy Denver" is truly not a good reason to camp out...its utterly ridiculous to think that by sleeping outside the rest of Wall St. will change. NO WAY!

This proposal has more to do with "Institutionalizing the homeless as a solution" because that's the conservative perspective to a rather common problem. "Send them to jail!" instead of "Reform, Heal and Educate." I may sound like a fairy at this point, but not a single change could ever happen if people don't try to understand my view. The sad part is...most of the homeless also are not very open to change too...those are the homeless people we should change, because they really are not mentally sound enough to understand the vast potential they should take up.

YOUNG SOLE
YOUNG SOLE

so lets say i follow your "logic"here. the homeless people on the 16th mall are NOT living off the government. they are off the grid. people who get welfare and govt housing do not have to sleep outside!

Randall Flagg
Randall Flagg

Its not that people arent open to change, Its that they are seeing that alot of promises are made and nothing happens. People tell them all the time how they will give them this or that, or help in a certain way. People rarely follow through though. There would have to be some evidence that this change would actually HAPPEN rather than just be another promise unfulfilled.

Its a complex mixture of patterns and human psychology one would have to wrangle first. Convince them there is "hope", because most dont have that anymore.

Steven B.
Steven B.

They are called fake homeless.

Many of such live in section 8 housing and on SSI.

When they need drug money dress up like "bums" to panhandle for cash for pot and booze maybe even cigarettes.

Then there are some that get welfare in the form of free heath care at Denver Health thru the CICP program Rate Z. And 6 months of food stamp benefits on the condition they get a job, but that runs out when no job happens. All while living under a bridge or even on the 16th Street Mall.

 
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