Denver camping ban worries homeless

6:32 PM, Apr 3, 2012   |    comments
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"All I could think was, 'God please take care of me.' It was terrifying," Hoing said. "It was absolutely terrifying."

Hoing is working on her bachelor's degree in criminal justice and getting good grades. She works on her education wherever she can get online.

9NEWS met her in a Denver day shelter for women and children called The Gathering Place.

Hoing always tries to stay in a shelter. Sleeping on the streets is a last resort- one she worries will be taken away if Denver adopts a bill by City Councilman Albus Brooks.

He wants a ban on "urban camping."

As he began explaining his bill, Brooks told an overflowing room at city hall to "take a deep breath."

"I think he needs to take a deep breath and sit out here for about two days and see what we're living," Hoing said.

Brooks' bill would allow police to confront people camping on public or private land. Officers would be able to make an arrest if the person in question doesn't have permission and refuses to leave.

Opponents argue the bill would make it a crime to simply be homeless in Denver because there aren't enough shelter beds.

Several opponents wore buttons reading "housing, not handcuffs."

"This city will always be about long-term housing," Brooks said. "That will always be the focus. But what do we do with the immediate concern?"

Brooks says people and businesses complain about all the people sleeping in public.

He also has concerns with sanitation, thanks in part to the Occupy Denver protest.

Protestors choose to camp in public, but people like Hoing say they have no other options.

"If you can't help me, then just leave me alone," Hoing said.

Homeless advocates want to amend the bill so that it can only be enforced if shelters have open space.

The city plans to hold at least a half dozen more hearings on the issue before taking a vote as soon as next month.

(KUSA-TV © 2012 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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