The council passed a preliminary ban on a first vote of nine to four.
The public was given two hours to weigh-in on the measure, and chambers were packed on Monday night. The meeting needed an overflow room.
Right now, Denver has no existing law that prohibits unauthorized camping on a citywide basis. There are laws about overnight sleeping in parks and curfews, but this proposal will be a total ban.
"Over the last year we've heard a lot of concern from downtown residents, downtown businesses, our tourism department as well, we're starting to see an uptick in people camping out in the public right-of-way," City Councilman Albus Brooks, the sponsor of the ordinance, said.
There are some special provisions which limit the authority of the police to cite or arrest violators. Those limitations are identical to the 2005 "sit-lie" ordinance that restricts sitting or lying on the streets and sidewalks in the downtown area.
The ordinance does not prohibit sleeping on public property, but includes any use, or form of shelter.
Members of the homeless community showed up in large numbers in opposition of the ban.
"When it is public property and these people have no other place to go they should be able to have that place to go and sleep," a homeless man, who calls himself 'Revolution,' said.
Opposing council members think the city should make sure there are enough homeless shelter beds in Denver before enacting the ban.
"We want to see the beds now, we want to see the services for mental health now before this kind of ban is even enacted," City Councilman, Paul Lopez, said.
Currently, the council estimates there are around 7,000 homeless in Denver, about 1,200 beds available in shelters, and between 300 and 600 people sleeping on the street each night.
The city is currently working with homeless organizations to open more beds.
Several business owners were at the meeting to discuss how the homeless affect their business.
"We've dealt with issues where people are blocking our doorways, or arriving in the morning and moving people off our patio that have been covered up during bad weather," Brianna Borin, the director of human resources for the restaurant Snooze, said.
Denver City Council will hold a final vote on the measure on May 14. If the ban passes it will go into effect on May 29.
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