Hancock signs homeless camping ban into law

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DENVER — The ban on overnight camping by the homeless is now law.

Mayor Michael Hancock signed the ordinance, which the city council on Monday despite strong opposition from an angry crowd at the meeting, into law Thursday afternoon behind closed doors.

It will take effect at the end of the month, allowing the city’s police officers a couple weeks to figure out how they’ll enforce it.

“This ordinance provides the City with additional tools to continue Denver’s compassionate work of connecting our most vulnerable with services needed while maintaining the integrity of our vibrant City,” said Hancock’s press secretary, Amber Miller, in a statement. “

“The Mayor and his administration are already hard at work, and will continue with laser focus, to successfully implement this new law, working with all of our community stakeholders and regional partners throughout the process.”

The ordinance was drawn up in response to a growing number of homeless people sleeping on downtown sidewalks, both along the 16th Street Mall and in and around Civic Center Park since the Occupy Denver camp took root there last fall.

While a number of business leaders, economic development advocates and the Civic Center Conservancy pushed for the ordinance, advocates for the homeless joined Occupy protestors in fighting it, arguing that the new law will effectively criminalize homelessness.

The Denver Police Dept. is promising to arrest homeless campers only as a last resort.

According to the mayor’s office, the city is finalizing plans for a real time shelter update system that will allow outreach workers and DPD officers to access info about where there is availability at any given time.

The city has also secured commitments to fund two additional street outreach workers and is extending contracts to keep additional beds open at the Crossroads shelter and the Denver Rescue Mission.

Those seeking assistance will not be arrested if beds are not available, barring extraordinary circumstances, according to the mayor’s office.

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