Initiated Ordinance 300 (I-300), named the “Right to Survive” Initiative by proponents, is on the ballot for voters in Denver, Colorado, on May 7. The citizen initiative has seen $1.6 million spent on campaigns, with $1.52 million in donations reported by “Together Denver – No on 300″ and $80,000 reported by “Yes On 300 Right To Survive.” Mail-in ballots will be sent to registered Denver voters beginning on April 15 containing this measure and other municipal races.
I-300 was designed to allow activities such as sleeping and sheltering oneself in public outdoor places—acts that are currently prohibited by Denver’s unauthorized camping ban, which was passed by the city council in 2012.
The city of Denver stated in an impact report that, if approved, I-300 would be the first initiative of its kind implemented in the nation. I-300 provides a list of rights that specifically concern homeless individuals, including the “right to rest and shelter oneself from the elements in a non-obstructive manner in outdoor public spaces.” While similar provisions under laws known as the “Homeless Bill of Rights” are codified in Illinois and Rhode Island, among other places, I-300 goes further by proposing to hold the city, county, law enforcement, or any other entity liable if that entity violates the rights listed in the initiative.
Initiative supporters have stated that the existing unauthorized camping law “targets Denver’s homeless, but fails to take into account that there are not enough shelter beds for everyone in need.” The “Yes on 300” campaign website states that I-300 would be a first step toward helping individuals experiencing homelessness sleep, find and hold down jobs, and find housing. Opponents have responded by saying that I-300 would threaten the quality of life for Denver citizens and prohibit officials from enforcing public safety laws. The “No on 300” website also states that the “Right to Survive” Initiative would fail to provide new services or address the causes of homelessness.
I-300 supporters have reported $81,514 in contributions to the “Yes on 300” campaign, with a top donation of $26,196 from Kayvan for Denver (former mayoral candidate Kayvan Khalatbari’s organization). The “No on 300” effort, led by Together Denver, has seen over $1.5 million in contributions, with top donors Downtown Denver Partnership and the National Association of Realtors each contributing $200,000.
Nick Brown, head of digital media for the “No on 300” campaign, said that “the initiative would allow camping in any public space in Denver indefinitely. That includes parks, sidewalks and other public areas.” He also stated that the campaign wants to “highlight that the initiative’s vague writing would make it harder for outreach workers to help people experiencing homelessness.”
Proponents of the “Right to Survive” Initiative submitted over 9,000 petition signatures to the Denver Elections Division in October 2018 to place I-300 on the ballot. Previously, proponents backed a 2014 bill at the state level known as the “Right to Rest Act,” sponsored by state Reps. Joe Salazar (D) and Jovan Melton (D). The act contained similar provisions to I-300, including “the right to use and move freely in public spaces.” Though it was reintroduced in 2015, 2016, and 2017, the “Right to Rest Act” never went to a vote in the legislature.
Denver voters will have a chance to weigh in on the “Right to Survive” Initiative starting the week of April 15, when vote-by-mail ballots are set to go out. All ballots must be received by 7:00 pm on election day, May 7. Denver voters are also deciding Initiative 301—a first-of-its-kind initiative to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms—and races for mayor, city auditor, city clerk, and all 13 city council seats.