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Denver Homeless Camping Ballot Initiative Fails

Debbie Hyatt stands outside the Impact Humanity store in downtown Denver. She sleeps in a shelter now but for a time slept on the sidewalk.

Debbie Hyatt stands outside the Impact Humanity store in downtown Denver. She sleeps in a shelter now but for a time slept on the sidewalk. Pew Charitable Trust

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

Voters overwhelmingly rejected a ballot initiative that sought to give homeless people the right to camp in public places.

This article was originally published by Stateline, an initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts.

DENVER — Voters here on Tuesday overwhelmingly rejected Initiative 300, a ballot question that sought to give homeless people the right to camp in public places. Some 83% of the 114,517 votes counted opposed the measure.

The ballot question, dubbed the “Right to Survive,” would have overturned the city’s urban camping ban and declared that everyone has the right to rest, eat and shelter in public places without being harassed.

While supporters said the measure would shield Denver’s estimated 3,445 people experiencing homelessness from unfair citations and arrests, it faced fierce opposition from businesses and environmental and social service organizations. Opponents argued that the measure would allow dangerous encampments to proliferate without helping to house people.

Together Denver, the opposition campaign, raised over $2.3 million, according to the most recent campaign finance data. The Right to Survive committee raised just $99,000.

“This campaign has reminded us that Denver is a compassionate community that cares deeply about both its people and its public places,” Together Denver tweeted Tuesday night. “While most voters agreed that Initiative 300 was not the right path forward for Denver, this is not the end of the discussion.”

The campaign said it hopes its supporters will work together to advance “practical approaches to supporting people experiencing homelessness today and address the underlying drivers of homelessness in Denver.”

The advocates for homeless people behind the initiative say they’re going to keep fighting to improve the situation on Denver’s streets.

"We're going to hold the people who were elected tonight accountable," Raffi Mercuri, the Initiative 300 campaign manager, told the Westword newsletter. "And we'll hold the people that funded our opposition accountable. They spread a message that this wasn't the solution, and that 'We Can Do Better' — so it's time to do better."

Sophie Quinton is a staff writer for Stateline.

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