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On Tuesday, Fort Collins City council discussed ordinance 5761 which adds new restrictions to the “sit lie ban” that disables homeless citizens from sitting in certain public areas. In a 3-2 vote, the new restrictions passed. The new ban will prohibit occupation of a highway or passageway, and banned occupation of certain fixtures, such as flowerpots. Ultimately, the homeless are reserved to laying on benches.
I am incredibly disappointed in our city council. When reading the ordinance, it is frustrating that the restrictions are spoken of as if every citizen is benefiting (or not benefiting) from this newly enforced ordinance. The ban is not universally detrimental– It is helping businesses overcome a minor inconvenience at the expense of the rights of homeless citizens. The new ban continues to criminalize homelessness without posing a solution to the homeless epidemic.
It is not fresh news that the sit lie ban breaches civil liberties. In May, the ordinance struck up conversation amongst civil liberty groups in Fort Collins and beyond. The restrictions were criticized by the American Civil Liberties Union, who called the ordinance “outrageous,” according to the Coloradoan.
The ordinance is without a doubt outrageous. What I am more shocked about is the failure from council to accept the ordinance without discussing future plans to aid homeless rather than stripping them of refuge. The abhorrent disregard for human dignity in order to make access to small business more convenient goes to show that the homeless are often thought of as less than. In a friendly, low crime city like Fort Collins we should be able to discuss plans to help our homeless population, especially when we impede these ridiculous restrictions.
Not only is this a breach of human rights, but also poses a problem of homeless crime becoming more relevant. With the homeless population growing and places to sit becoming slimmer, the homeless will start to be charged for being homeless. We do not need to spend taxes on housing the homeless, rather we should look towards tangible solutions that do not criminalize homelessness.
Lack of compassion is a sad reality that prevents the needy from being recognized as real humans. Yes, the homeless may sometimes be uncomfortable to encounter. The inconveniance a store owner will experience from a homeless person occupying a nearby passageway is nothing compared to the struggle of being homeless. The “sit lie ban” disregards the rights of the homeless, and will inflict harm on the homeless population.
I hope that in the nest few weeks our lawmakers will be posed with issues pushing them to move forward in a compassionate and positive way. Ultimately, our homeless population is growing. We must not sweep an issue under the rug by regulating homelessness, rather go directly to the humans being effected: the homeless.
The homeless do not get to go to sleep in a bed at night. Now, they wont even be able to sleep.
Opinion editor Allec Brust can be reached at email@example.com or online @allecbrust.