Sleep Where? I was There

26 February 2016

On February 23rd, 2016, I was convicted of trespassing while attending an Urban Farmer Collective-sponsored permiculture gardening and tiny home event held at Sustainability Park, 2500 Lawrence Street on October 24th 2015, by a jury of six voter-registered, therefore housed peers. In addition to a commander, lieutenant, captain, and the arresting officer from the Denver Police Department, Denver Housing Authority’s Executive Director Ryan Tobin was subpeoned to testify as to his role in the ten arrests, that day. Much of the two-day trial’s testimony challenged the notion that DHA is a private, not a quasi-municipal organization.

For six weeks, from October 23rd until December 9th, I shoveled the walks, carted away the trash, and resided at Resurrection Village at the same location as Sustainability Park, and Ryan Tobin who lives directly across the street from the property, testified that he has never seen my face. Of course, he hadn’t- I am one of the invisible people who is a criminal in the eyes of the housed, and the law. We are not leaving. My sentencing is March 3rd.

My adventures as an urban camper began in April 2012, shortly after the passing of the Urban Camping Ban, and forceful removal of the Occupy Denver from Civic Center Park, at the cost of two-million dollars to the tax-payer. In August of 2012, I met with a group of like-minded individuals in the park who had just completed a survey through the University of Colorado at Denver’s Political Science Department on the impact that the urban camping ban was having on the homeless population of Denver. These meetings led to the formation of Denver Homeless Out Loud, a direct off-shoot of the Occupy Denver organization.

Since April of 2012, I have lived behind buildings, under highways, in the bushes along the river, and in transitional housing, such as the Denver Rescue Mission, the Salvation Army, and hotel rooms along Broadway and Colfax. I am chronically-homeless according to the governmental definition of homelessness. I am a dues-paying member of society’s invisible people. Everywhere I go, I am told to “move along'” if I am not going to purchase anything, or if I have sat at the bus-stop for too long, or if I happen to be trying to cover myself from the elements, or sleep. Life on the streets is comprised of moving from one trespass to another, one criminal charge for another. Unlike Boulder, Denver county has not been writing camping ban citations. In two drastically different ways, Boulder and Denver counties are using the urban camping ban legislation suitable to their respective environments. If enforced, the camping ban would bog down the entire Denver judicial system in the further criminalization of the homeless. In Boulder, it keeps the financial gains of poverty churning back into the system.

A fourth-generation Denverite, I have lived and worked in the Capitol Hill area for the majority of my life. In those years, I have witnessed Denver grow from a one-wagon town to this New Denver, which is colder, crueler, and greedier with our resources. No more is our prime concern caring for and cultivating the back country, and the natural beauty of the skyline. More focused on gridlock and the whims of commercial development, Denver politicians and businesses, such as Governor John Hickenlooper, and Mayor Michael Hancock have lost sight of what makes Denver great- her people, and her community. With this incredibly-fast gentrification comes an unaffordable standard-of-living. Half-heartedly, I laugh with other natives that we are a dying breed.