Colorado Right to Rest Act

The Fort Collins Homeless Coalition joins Denver Homeless Out Loud and the Western Regional Advocacy Project in working toward a Colorado Right to Rest Act.

Current Status: 2018 Right to Rest Act

On Wednesday March 14, 2018, the Local Government Committee of the Colorado State House voted 10 to 3 against the Right to Rest Act – a law that would protect the right to sleep, sit, cover oneself, share food, or sleep in one’s own vehicle. Read the complete report here.

Our work does not end here. FCHC will be back in the State Capitol next year, and working on decriminalizing poverty and homelessness at every level. We will be looking for people to help us begin a new round of survey collection soon, so stay tuned!

Background

The National Law Center on Poverty and Homelessness estimates that 3.5 million Americans experience homelessness each year, including over 1 million school-aged children (1). This staggering number is the product of our ongoing national housing crisis, stagnant wages and growing income inequality, and the shrinking of the social safety net. As this number continues to grow and more people find themselves mired in poverty, the visibility of homelessness and poverty is rising. In response to the increased visibility of poverty and homelessness, many communities have responded by trying to mask the problem: enacting municipal ordinances that aim to make homelessness less visible by pushing homeless populations out of public spaces. Fort Collins is among these communities.

In response to daily violations of the constitutional and civil rights of the men, women, and children who experience homelessness, a movement is growing. In cities and states across the country, people are fighting back against this injustice. One of the most powerful tools available is a homeless bill of rights that explicitly protects people from discrimination.

Homeless bills of rights have been enacted in Rhode Island, Connecticut, Illinois, and the United States Territory of Puerto Rico, and have been proposed in the legislatures of California, Hawaii, Oregon, Vermont, and Missouri (1). These bills can help homeless people realize the rights that many people take for granted, such as the right to engage in life-sustaining activities free from persecution, the right to freely use public spaces, or the right to be treated equally by government agencies. They can also help reduce or remove the stigma of homelessness, and generate more productive approaches to homelessness and inequality.

A homeless bill of rights has also been proposed in Colorado, and we continue to fight for it.

What’s in the Colorado Right to Rest Act?

The text of the 2018 Right to Rest Act can be found here.

All across Colorado, and the country, people are being criminalized and pushed “away” for performing basic acts of survival like sleeping, sitting, sleeping in your vehicle, and having belongings in public space. Our Homeless Bill of Rights Campaign in Colorado will create bills that protect the following rights and prohibit the enforcement of any local laws that violate these rights:

  • The right to move freely, rest, sleep and protect oneself from the elements in public spaces.
  • The right to occupy a legally parked vehicle.
  • The right to a reasonable expectation of privacy of your property in public space.
  • The right to eat, share, accept, or give food in any public space in which having food is not prohibited.

People in Fort Collins are routinely harassed and/or ticketed for sleeping, resting, camping, and occupying their legally-parked vehicles. The Colorado homeless bill of rights would help end ongoing violations of civil and constitutional rights, make a lasting improvement in the situation of being homeless in Fort Collins, improve the ability of service-providers to do their work, and allow for better use of public resources.

Ultimately, punishing homeless people for conducting life-sustaining activities takes a heavy toll on the entire community, though the heaviest burden is born by the men, women, and children experiencing homelessness. A homeless bill of rights will encourage our community to find better solutions.


(1) From Wrongs to Rights: The Case for Homeless Bill of Rights Legislation, National Law Center on Poverty and Homelessness. https://www.nlchp.org/documents/Wrongs_to_Rights_HBOR

(2) Stuart Hill’s testimony from the April 15th hearing of the Military and Veteran Affairs Committee of the Colorado State Legislature on HB 15-1264, known as the “Right to Rest Act.”

I am stu, stuie, stuart, however best you can remember me

I once had a house a family a car and bills (funny how in a point of homeless you like the sound of paying bills again).

In a place and time where even with emergency cold shelters (by the way closed march 31st) we have more homeless than sleeping spaces.

Move on to where I ask of you.

On such a winter night were zero degrees can and will kill you.

Move on to where I ask you

When in or out of the wind makes a difference in sleeping. where sleeping in a car is the difference then life or death

Move on to where I ask you

When the last thoughts that cross your mind are 

DEAR GOD PLEASE DON’T LET THIS BE THE LAST THING I SEE AND EXPERIENCE!!

Bottom line is: Sleeping out in the cold at night is dangerous and deadly and the harassment is outta hand don’t we as humans deserve the right to rest.

A story so crazy it has to be true.

Imagine cold winter night standing in line with the winter wind burning your skin. here we go you whisper to the person standing in front of you. then a sound more chilling than the wind blowing around you. some of you are not getting in. Please god let me be inside tonight. The cards slowly go out black in red out. Black black black that is way too many black RED!!! The blood runs from your face what am I going to do where am I going to go. You start to plead you beg you wonder the last five dollars in my pocket can it help. no

then a blessing a trumpet a sound from heaven you can sleep in my car. Words to hear on winged dove come from the heavens. And just as you fall asleep such beauty snow falling on the window. You pick up your phone arms stiff legs stiff you realize I am about to die. You look at your phone thinking I should call and tell someone i love you mom and good bye dad. As the tears start to fall and freeze to your cheek a tap on the window to tell you

the car can stay but you have to move on

Move on to where

So you curl up under a bush in sleeping bags and blankets to get kicked

Move on to where

Go to the woods I hope to sleep. 4 am raid

Move on to where

Sun’s up and it’s warm few hours till doors open for coffee maybe a few hours on a bench

That’s a laugh, move on to where, now the truth: Merry Christmas, Stu.

With sleep an unchanging human need, we need our rights to sleep and occupy public spaces protected. As we are humans not cattle with not enough shelter spaces. we need camping to not be ticketed and criminalized. but simply we need your help

please give us the right to rest.