Colorado Springs Faith Leaders Testify Against Proposed City Ordinance that Increases Criminalization of Homelessness

The Colorado Springs Faith Leaders Table of Together Colorado is working on raising awareness and conditions for homeless citizens in Colorado Springs by organizing against the increased criminalization of homelessness in the area. On January 8, 2019, members of the Faith Table testified against the most recent ordinance to ban RV parking in residential areas. If the ordinance passes, an RV parked in a residential area can be ticketed and later impounded if the fees are not paid. Rev. Dr. Douglas R. Sharp, retired professor and Together Colorado Faith Leader was among those who testified against the RV ban.

“Our democracy is premised on the inalienable as a democracy is the unalienable right to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness, and the role of government is to protect those rights against alienation. The Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution both address the requisite conditions under which it is possible for an individual to flourish: freedom, ownership of the one’s self and the fruit of one’s labor, and the pursuit of well-being.

Neither the Declaration nor the Constitution stipulate that one must have a permanent domicile in order to benefit from these conditions — they are, after all, unalienable rights — but apparently, having these rights and exercising them in a sustainable way require having a place of residence. Without a residence, these rights are indeed alienable. Increasingly, this council has passed ordinances and laws that deny the rights of those who are homeless and criminalize necessary behaviors of anyone who does not have a permanent housing.

Homeless persons are dependent on public spaces, but this government increasingly impedes the use of such spaces for life-sustaining behaviors. The effort to control the life-sustaining behavior of homeless persons neither eliminate homelessness nor address its fundamental causes.

Instead, criminalizing these behaviors raises the question of whether such efforts may violate the constitutional rights of homeless persons. Not having a conventional “home” does not mean a person surrenders his or her right to be “secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable search and seizure” (Fourth Amendment), nor does it mitigate the freedom from “excessive fines”, or the guarantee of “due process” and “equal protection of the law” (Fourteenth Amendment).

There are individuals and families here who cannot afford permanent housing in this expensive housing market which is also characterized immoral dearth of affordable housing units. Some of these homeless families own a recreational vehicle, but the cost of occupying a space makes that option prohibited.

I urge you at the very least to postpone a vote on this ordinance until such a time as there is a plan and a place to accommodate these RV owners with dignity. There is no reason we cannot solve this situation that dehumanizes everyone, homeless and homed alike.” – Rev. Dr. Douglas R. Sharp

At the time of this writing, the council voted to revisit the RV Ban on March 26. For further information on this issue, please contact Sol Tafoya, [email protected].

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