In Denver, it is illegal for homeless residents to sleep or sit on downtown sidewalks, or to use any form of shelter from the cold or sun other than their clothing. In Denver, because of new laws like the Urban Camping Ban, city officials are treating homelessness as a criminal condition and are illegalizing the activities of homeless people in public spaces.
In response to this crisis a consortium of partners including the Buck Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union, Bayaud Industries and local service providers have joined forces to move people to take actions that change social norms and policy. The Buck Foundation is specifically focused on organizing homeless residents themselves to mobilize around key initiatives to protect their rights and access to services.Among these are 1) access to public toilets 2) state and city laws to protect basic human rights, 3) establishment of an affordable housing fund and 4) maintaining affordable public transit fares.
In April we convened 300 homeless residents and providers to address each of these key areas and to develop solutions. Because our nonprofit partners and most foundations are slow to exert pressure and influence on the philanthropic, private and public sectors, the Buck Foundation has been working to build a coalition of the willing into key working groups to address each of these issue areas. In this formative year, we have developed a culture of shared leadership, strategy and training in community organizing. Given the vulnerability of the homeless community, this initiative is going to take time and patience with a series of small victories to grow momentum.
In addition, the Buck Foundation sponsored the first national convening of the National Coalition for the Homeless in concert with a nationwide campaign to introduce an inaugural Right To Rest Act, piloted this spring in the Colorado State Legislature.