Advocates for people experiencing homelessness and poverty
Community Compassion Outreach, Inc., is a 501(c)(3) public charity in Durango, Colorado. Our work aims to eliminate prejudice and discrimination of people in poverty and homelessness. As advocates for our clients and constituencies, we are committed to defend human and civil rights.
While the homeless in Durango and La Plata County have no place to sleep, camp, or live in vehicles due to current camp bans and safety concerns of fires -- Community Compassion Outreach reached out to the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty (NLCHP) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) for advice.
Individuals experiencing homelessness have been camping in the mountainsides of San Juan National Forest, on county and city public spaces for many years.
Since the City started enforcing an ordinance making it unlawful to sleep or camp on public spaces, our constituents have reported property damages and loss of valuable personal documents, laptops, cell phones, blankets and sleeping bags/tents.
Enforcement of Durango’s Camping Ban ACLU and NLCHP sent a strong letter to the City of Durango's mayor, city council and city attorney on August 24, 2018. The letter states, "It is cruel and unconstitutional [emphasis added] to criminalize camping in public spaces when – due to City action – homeless residents have nowhere else to go."... read more
CCO believes that people who have no place to go when an ordinance or law is enforced, and when there is no bed space or shelter available, the homeless have rights as U.S. citizens. When the homeless must perform natural bodily functions (sleep, sit, kneel, stand, lie down, urinate, defecate, eat), and when there are no facilities or shelter available, the Constitution protects them from "excessive fines imposed", "cruel and unusual punishments" for being homeless.
The Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution: "Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted."
On Monday, September 10th, a second communication to the City of Durango from the ACLU to share the supplemental authority that directly supports the legal arguments made in their letter of 8/24/2018. Copies of the September 4th Ninth Circuit Court decision which denied the City of Boise's motion for summary judgement in a case by homeless individuals challenging the City's enforcement of its camping ban. The Court held that the Eighth Amendment prohibits enforcement of a statute prohibiting sleeping outside against homeless individuals with no access to alternative shelter. (Scroll down to view Martin vs. City of Boise).
Example of CCO's work - A local criminal attorney represented several homeless campers who received trespassing citations at the Municipal Court on September 12, 2108. Sometime late July, at the City's temporary "overnight" sheltering on Cemetery Road, campers protested by not taking their tents down at nine o'clock in the morning every day (a rule created by city staff). Another rule required that no persons are allowed to remain at the campsite between the hours of 9:00AM-to-6:00PM. The long walk up and down the hill between those hours became difficult for people with disabilities, persons age 50-65, young adults, and those who worked nightshift. There was nowhere to go with most shelters are full. The judge dismissed the case as recommended by the prosecutor. CCO's executive director was at the courthouse to support her friends. Brian Schowalter of Whitney & Schowalter Criminal Defense Attorneys represented this case pro bono. We are grateful for Brian's dedication in defending the homeless against criminalization. (Note: Unlike previous homeless campers who were given citations for camping in public spaces, defendants did not have to perform community service.)
"Some municipalities target persons experiencing homelessness by conducting sweeps of areas where homeless individuals sleep, rest, and store belongings. During sweeps, police or city workers may confiscate and destroy belongings in an attempt to “clean up” an area. A policy that establishes procedures for disposing of property discovered during the cleaning of public spaces can ensure that the owners are afforded due process of law and provided with support by appropriate service provider agencies. For further information, please see the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty’s model policy for cleaning public spaces."
If you are a family experiencing homelessness, please contact the Student Support Services office at 970-247-5411, ext. 1461 for further information on your rights and how we can assist you with enrollment in school, transportation to school, free lunches and other services. You may also contact the main office of the school your child(ren) are presently attending.
Rights of Homeless children and youth:
Go to school, no matter where they live or how long they have lived there
Attend either the local school or the school of origin, if this is in their best interest; the school of origin is the school the child attended when he/she was permanently housed or the school which the child was last enrolled
Receive transportation to and from the school of origin
Enroll in school immediately, even if missing records and documents normally required for enrollment such as a birth certificate, proof of residence, previous school records, or immunization/medical records
Enroll, attend classes, and participate fully in all school activities while the school arranges for the transfer of records
Have access to the same programs and services that are available to all other students including transportation and supplemental educational services
Attend school with children not experiencing homelessness; segregation based on a student’s status as homeless is prohibited
Definitions of “homeless children and youth”:
(according to the Mc-Kinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act of 2001 – Title X, Part C, of the No Child Left Behind Act – Sec 725)
means individuals who lack a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence…; and includes-
children and youths who are sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or similar reason; are living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, or camping grounds due to the lack of alternative accommodations; are living in emergency or transitional shelters; are abandoned in hospitals; or are awaiting foster care placement;
children and youths who have a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings…
children and youths who are living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations, or similar settings; and
migratory children…who qualify as homeless for the purposes of this subtitle because the children are living in circumstances described in clauses (i) through (iii).
Disclaimer: CCO or its representatives do not provide legal advice, except to provide information to the public.
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