A new proposal in Colorado would allow homeless people to sleep in public areas without punishments and be allowed to sue if they are denied their rights.
Informally known as the "Homeless Persons' Bill of Rights" or the “Right to Rest” bill, the legislation would allow those who are “experiencing homelessness” the right to eat, sleep, and ask for money in public areas that may have banned food, The Washington Times reports.
If any homeless person believes they were discriminated against, they would be able to collect up to $1,000 per punishment in addition to legal costs. State lawmakers convened to discuss the legislation, known as House Bill 15-1264, on Wednesday (April 15). While an official vote has been delayed, lawmakers still heard testimony from homeless citizens.
“I’ve been kicked away, flashlight in your face, officers kicking you and telling you to move along, ticket in hand,” said Nicole Siseneros, who said she was ticketed 15 times for violations of sleeping or eating in public areas.
The bill’s sponsor, state Democratic Sen. John Kefalas of Fort Collins, expressed his concerns about how the homeless were being treated.
“All persons should have the right to rest, eat and survive in public places as long as they are not breaking the law," he said. "We need to refocus our efforts away from criminalizing how someone looks or lives and instead focus on smart and creative ways to address the lack of affordable housing and support services for persons who are homeless."
The senator said that he expected hearings to continue next week, The Coloradoan reported.
However, the bill may not advance at all. Republicans in the majority of the state senate are likely to not support the legislation. Moreover, Democrats in both chambers of the legislature have not been the most forthcoming in their approval.
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