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A city crew cleans up a homeless encampment.
A city crew cleans up a homeless encampment.
Sara Fleming

Reader: There Have to Be Alternatives to Turning Neighborhoods Into Garbage Piles

A Denver District Court judge just overturned last December's Denver County Court decision that Denver's urban camping ban was unconstitutional and violated the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment. In making that determination, now-retired Judge Johnny Barajas threw out the entire ordinance approved by Denver City Council and signed into law by Mayor Michael Hancock in 2012.

The city appealed, and with his September 3 reversal of Barajas's decision, Judge Eric Elliff has put the camping ban back in play. "In its enforcement of the Ordinance, the City was not motivated by a discriminatory purpose nor a desire to harm a 'politically unpopular group,' and thus there was no 'animus' on the part of the City. The City does not have a custom and practice of arresting, harassing and otherwise interfering with homeless people for engaging in basic activities of daily life," Elliff determined.

Readers were quick to weigh in on Facebook regarding our story on the Elliff decision, as well as the homelessness situation in general. Says Constance:

I don't know what the answer is, but there have to be alternatives to turning neighborhoods into garbage piles.

Adds Chris:

I am happy to both support this and see it enforced. Downtown may start to resemble what it once was.

Replies Eric:

That's amazing that our city believes that being homeless is straight-up illegal. Our system is fucking broken.

Suggests Carolyn:

Those who don’t understand how this urban camping is inhumane and unhealthy for both the homeless and for the residents of the city of Denver: You obviously do not live where these homeless camps are! Clean these camps up and stop the complete destruction of my home!

Counters Janet:

It is incredible to me that someone with a vehicle and a home to lie down in at night would think that their inconvenience at having a homeless camp anywhere in their city eclipses the inconvenience of those forced to live like that.

Adds Michael: 

Where are they supposed to go? Their lives are hard enough.

Replies Adelina:

It's the city's fault. They can make it better for everyone. But they don't want to put funds to work for that....Sad for all involved.

Notes Chrissy: 

Too many people don’t realize that if they didn’t have family and friends to help, this could be YOU.

Concludes John:

This case is going to go the distance, and it should.

Indeed, the plaintiffs plan to appeal. "This fight isn’t over, and again, we don’t need a court to tell us that the camping ban is cruel and unusual punishment," explains attorney Andy McNulty. "It just is, and we will continue to fight to get a ruling from the higher court that comports with the lived reality of the folks that live on the streets."

What did you think of Barajas's original decision? Eliff's ruling? And what would you like to see Denver do regarding the homelessness situation? Post a comment or email your thoughts to editorial@westword.com.

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