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PlatteForum's latest exhibit asks pointed questions about homelessness in Denver. Photo courtesy of PlatteForum

Denver’s Mayoral Candidates on the Issues: Initiative 300

If passed, Initiative 300, also known as the “Right to Survive Initiative,” would end Denver’s urban camping ban and change the way the city addresses homelessness. We asked the candidates to weigh in.

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Lisa Calderón: “Essentially, I support the principles of the advocates of Right to Rest, and that is that you shouldn’t criminalize homelessness. Criminalizing poor people has never worked in the history of our country and what it does is actually make problems worse. It pushes the issues into surrounding communities. It pits residents against each other, and it also pits the business communities against homeless right advocates. That’s what’s happening right now in this Initiative 300 fight.”

Stephan “Chairman Seku” Evans: “Those are symptoms of underdevelopment. You got a boat here. You got a hole in the bottom. You got people getting sucked out of the bottom of the boat, being left out there to die. No one gives a damn about them being under no bridge. You gotta patch that hole.”

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Jamie Giellis: “If Initiative 300 passes, I think we find ourselves in a really challenging position: Unlike any other city in the country, with legislation that is more far reaching, and will require—most likely—will go through some legal challenge as it goes through the process of being implemented. But will also leave us in a place of…having to invest in some real strategies to tackle homelessness, not just sweeping.”

Michael B. Hancock: “I think it’s one of the more complex issues to solve. I think a lot of people are in our city because Denver is focused on the issue of homelessness. Some cities do not put the resources in that we have put into homelessness. And the homeless will tell you that they came to Denver because of the services that Denver offers….I don’t support [Initiative 300]. I think it’s the wrong answer for the challenges that we have in regards to homelessness. I find nothing compassionate about encouraging people to sleep outdoors.”

Kalyn Rose Heffernan: “I have actually been protesting [and] boycotting the urban camping ban since it started seven years ago….Denver businesses are going to spend, I’m hearing, over $2 million to fight the Right to Survive. And it’s so infuriating that money is being thrown around to fight people that are trying to survive instead of just solving the issue.”

Penfield Tate III: “I’ve been meeting already with homeless shelter providers and other caregivers, asking them what we need to do. What I have found in traveling around the city is that homelessness has reached epic proportions….My expectation with our administration is that 300 will become moot….We’re having the wrong conversation. The conversation needs to be about investing in affordable housing and investing in resources to get people off the street.”

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