The criminalization of people experiencing homelessness has increased in Colorado as homelessness itself has increased due to a “lack of investment in public housing and skyrocketing home prices.”
“Cities have not been able to effectively support their homeless communities, so [instead] they try to scare them off,” said Dunning, a worker for the advocacy group Denver Homeless Out Loud.
“It’s illegal to stand still, it’s illegal to sit down, it’s illegal to lay down, it’s illegal to eat,” said Paul Boden, executive director of the Western Regional Advocacy Project. “You’re breaking the law as soon as you stop walking.”
“If someone is cited, they first face a fine and a court date. But most homeless people can’t afford to pay a fine and can’t make it to court. It’s a “cycle of criminalization,” said Nantiya Ruan, who leads the Homeless Advocacy Policy Project at the University of Denver. “People get a citation, they can’t pay it, they get a warrant for their arrest … then they spend anywhere from two to three days in jail. Then they can’t get a job because they have a criminal background.”