Denver Homeless Out Loud and The Casa Mayan partnered up to introduce the 2017 version of the Right to Rest Act in the Tivoli Turnhalle on Feb. 23.
Joseph Salazar and Jovan Melton of the Colorado House of Representatives will be re-sponsoring the bill this year for the third time. The bill has four major parts: the right to move, sleep and rest in public, the right to occupy a legally parked vehicle, the right to reasonable expectation of privacy of property in public spaces and the right to eat, share, accept, or give food in public spaces.
“We’re not going to solve the issue of homelessness by continuing to lock people up or criminalizing it. This prevents us from doing that and wasting resources as well,” said Vinnie Cervantes, a Casa Mayan member and MSU Denver student.
The RRA was first introduced in 2015 by Salazar and Melton, but died in legislative committee April 2015. In 2016, the bill lost by one vote in committee. The 2017 bill text will be released when the bill is reintroduced. The bill is expected to reach the legislature sometime in March. Currently, it is unavailable to the public.
Denver Homeless Out Loud Organizer Marcus Hyde said if the bill turns to law, there most likely would be no negative impact to campus. The bill would exclude all places of higher education from being affected by the new legislation.
Over the past two years, AHEC has lobbied against the act. When reached for comment, AHEC did not respond to whether or not they would be lobbying against the bill again this year. A petition
has gone around this year demanding AHEC and all three institutions support the bill because students don’t want their tuition money and fees going to a bill criminalizing homelessness.
“Certainly homeless people are the ones who most often get pushed out of public spaces, but this bill is about making sure all Colorado residents, all communities, have basic human rights,” said Hyde about who the bill is aiming to help.
Similar bills have been proposed all around the country. Places like Connecticut and Illinois passed and are implementing their version of the bills. If Colorado passes the RRA, it would be the most protective of all the bills that have been passed on homeless rights throughout the country. The bill still has a long journey through the Colorado legislature before it can be enacted. It has to survive multiple committee meetings, a trip through the Colorado House of Representatives and finally make it through the Senate. Activists are confident that it will make it through the committee meetings this year because of the one vote loss last year.
Coby Wikselaar, a Casa Mayan member and MSU Denver student, summed up why her and others are fighting to get this bill passed.
“You need to sleep. You need to sit. You need to rest. Not allowing those is cruel, it is torture,” she said.