The Denver City Council will vote Monday night whether to ban camping on the streets of Denver.
A recent study says nearly 1,000 people are living outside on the streets. Many of those people make their way to the 16th Street Mall because they say it's the one of the safest places they can be.
9NEWS Reporter Matt Flener and Photojournalist Kevin Sullivan spent the night on the mall to show what it's like to camp on the main street of Denver. They profiled a woman named Diana Suarez, who slept in the doorway of the Dress Barn on the mall. For three months, Suarez says she's been sleeping in the doorway of the Dress Barn. There's no way, she says, she can or wants to afford what's inside.
"This is how we lived all the time," she said. "We didn't have houses, we didn't have all these clothes. We were nomadic."
She says she tried to find real housing. She's tried the shelters but gave up.
"Being in a shelter with so many people is rather hard to deal with," said Suarez.
Apparently, the shelters were also hard to deal with for the 51 others who slept on the mall that night. Sometimes the number can swell to 200, homeless advocates say, during the summer months. One man even used four rolls of Real Soft-brand toilet paper to cushion the hard reality of the pavement below.
"On any given night, there are about 200 to 400 people who are not able to get into shelters," Colorado Coalition for the Homeless President John Parvensky said.
Those that help the homeless say a camping ban in Denver only forces people farther into the shadows.
"It basically criminalizes the act of being homeless, even though the city recognizes there aren't those alternatives for people to be," Parvensky said.
Those that work with downtown businesses say a law to ban camping motivates people who may not choose not to look for help.
"It does not make being homeless illegal, but it does draw attention to the fact that there are individuals who need assistance," Tami Door, president and CEO of the Downtown Denver Partnership, said. "There will be repercussions for not taking advantage of services when they're available."
Suarez says she's not sure yet where she would go if Denver bans camping on streets.
"They want to force us out into the other counties and cities," she said. "I guess if the cops really start to crack down, we either all go to jail, or we go somewhere else."
The vote to ban camping on Denver's streets will happen Monday at 5:30 p.m. at the City Council chambers in the City and County building. The first vote passed two weeks ago by a 9 to 4 margin.
(KUSA-TV © 2012 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)