Debate starts on homeless bill of rights at Colorado Capitol

(Photo: CPR/Megan Verlee)

Debate has started at the Colorado Capitol on a bill that would give the homeless the right to rest in public spaces.

It would also allow the homeless civil remedies in cases of police harassment and allow the homeless to camp and panhandle in public. Cities like Denver, Boulder and Fort Collins have instituted bans on those activities.

The bill also offers civil relief if homeless persons' rights are violated.

“We need help," said Stuart Hill of Fort Collins, who is homeless. "These people need to be protected. These people need to stop being harassed and the state and the government need to understand that when you ticket somebody that has no way to pay, you're only criminalizing poverty.”

Municipal organizations and cities oppose the effort. Regina Huerter of Denver's Crime Prevention and Control Division says police first offer access to services before they issue citations. And Huerter said the city has been increasing shelter beds and mental health and substance abuse services.

“Denver has done a tremendous job in trying to address the needs and create a safety net for all of our citizens, including those who are homeless,” Huerter said.

A House committee did not vote on the bill and will take it up again later.