Everyone Deserves the ‘Right 2 Rest’
Scott Rowland • January 27, 2016 • Progression •
Denver Homeless Out Loud and Western Regional Advocacy Project Organize for a “Homeless Bill of Rights” in Colorado
To rest and tempt authoritative harassment, ticketing and potentially arrest, or find a means to stay awake and risk health? No wonder the homeless embody a demeanor of zombie shuffling, empty gazes and tiresome, strung out articulation. Drug and alcohol abuse aside, there isn’t much of an option.
The homeless deal with an unnecessary amount of detriment as age sets in, and our system’s justification for keeping public space clear of sleeping humans has an adverse effect on their everyday stability. On Jan. 25, I went to Denver for the “Right 2 Rest Fest!” organized by Denver Homeless Out Loud (DHOL) in conjunction with the Western Regional Advocacy Project (WARP). I wanted to show support for social change that could help comfort the weary and even ignite hope in the lost souls of a cement gorge. Fortunately, people across the nation care enough to fight for a “Homeless Bill of Rights” or in Colorado’s case, the “Right to Rest Act”.
“[The] Homeless Bill of Rights (HBR) Campaign stands on the shoulders of social justice campaigns of the past to alleviate poverty and homelessness while protecting homeless and poor people from unjust laws and ensuring all people’s right to exist in public spaces.”
As I approached the Golden Dome of Denver’s Capitol building, the disheveled appearance of the disenfranchised spoke volumes for the drive behind DHOL. The front steps were covered with cardboard signs marked “Everyone Deserves the Right 2 Rest!” while others boldly proclaimed the necessity of rights for the homeless. There were tables full of food and drinks. Hundreds of people awaited a turn to say their peace.
This was a public gathering of proactive citizens that ranged from the disabled to the studious, and I can’t get over the passion and angst from the community. Those who showed up were ready to voice their concerns and rally for support. Stephen Polk, a Denver activist, spoke of human dignity as “what is at stake with the Right 2 Rest.” I was surrounded by concerned minds worn by the adversities of life on the streets standing together enlightened by the hope of more accepting living conditions.
I love to hear triumph stories about ex-homeless finding work and flourishing into an economically stable way of life, but our social system doesn’t foster that kind of growth. From my perspective, when things get rough and hard to handle, our laws push for conformity rather than a workable integration. These regulations tend to bear negative reinforcement upon unstable characters with foundationless life structures.
“Policymakers and elected officials can no longer use the police, discriminatory laws and unjust enforcement as solutions to the problems that pervade our communities,” said Paul Boden of WARP. “They cannot ignore the calls for justice emanating from communities across the country.”
In the city, self-preservation through agriculture isn’t an option. Left to scavenge the nooks and crannies for food and a place to rest, where does peace of mind come into this picture of industrialized suburbia?
The Colorado Right to Rest Act HB 15-1264, commonly referred to as the “Homeless Bill of Rights”, is written to give people the freedom to perform “basic acts of survival.” The campaign is focused on establishing protection for the homeless while prohibiting laws from violating these rights:
2. The right to rest in public spaces and protect oneself from the elements in a non-obstructive manner.
3. The right to a reasonable expectation of privacy of your property in public space.
4. The right to occupy a legally parked vehicle.
5. The right to share food and eat in public.
“Public domain” should imply sanctity for the otherwise disenfranchised and provide a means of enduring the wear of life on the streets. Whether in a home or not, people deserve the right of daily sleep and protection over their belongings. These small acts of stability provide mental comfort and a sense of ease when dealing with the regular stresses of surviving in an unsuitable environment.