A Petition for “Services Not Sweeps” in Broomfield

I started my first-ever petition earlier this week. It’s in response to recent misinformation about tent encampments, which has so far prompted a flood of community comments, and two official city council discussions around enforcement, policy and potential short-term “solutions” regarding people staying outside in Broomfield. Please read through it and consider signing if you have a strong connection to Broomfield.

The “Services Not Sweeps” petition itself offers details on some of the realities of homelessness in Broomfield and on the most appropriate response to it in our specific context. So far more than 150 people have signed on to the petition, so if you’re one of them, THANK YOU! Please continue sharing it widely.

In this short post, I’d like to address some petition-related misconceptions that are making the rounds on social media:

  1. Broomfield’s Current Code — It is already illegal to camp in open space and parks in Broomfield, according to our city charter. The petition I started addresses both the prospect of a “camping ban” in all of Broomfield (not the best way forward IMO) and a preferable way of addressing homelessness in Broomfield. Thus, “Services Not Sweeps,” means investing our resources in wraparound services and support programs for our most vulnerable neighbors, rather than in further criminalizing homelessness.
  2. Where would the money for services come from and how will it be spent? — Broomfield has already received half of its $20 million American Rescue Plan Act allocation from the federal government, and is scheduled to receive another $20 million in 2022. I have asked city council to consider spending $2 million or 10% of that initial disbursement on a package of resources including hotel vouchers (a severe weather pilot program is already in place), safe spot camping, the lease or purchase of a local hotel structure for temporary and transitional housing, and five full-time caseworkers/liaisons to provide ongoing case management for those in need of housing support. Several great local government agencies and non-profit organizations have served and continue to serve our neighbors in need, but they’re overworked, understaffed and underfunded. More capacity in terms of financial resources and people power is desperately needed!
  3. “They” ARE our neighbors — Since I started sharing the petition, I’ve received a number of stereotypical replies, such as “they chose to live that way” and “they should just get a job and work hard like the rest of us” and “they should stop leaching off the system.” It’s easy to “other” those we don’t know or want to know, but what the average housed person doesn’t know is that the majority of people who are unhoused already have jobs, at least those in Broomfield do. Many work hard, often at low-paying jobs, despite having to scramble daily to eat healthy, take a shower or even find safe place to sleep. They absolutely want to be housed again. Through my work at the Refuge and throughout Broomfield and the North Metro Area, I’ve learned what should already have been obvious to me (but wasn’t) — each and every person who is unhoused has a unique story and set of circumstances that led them into homelessness. No one I’ve met thought they’d ever end up on the street. In fact, a good percentage have bachelor’s degrees and at one time held high-paying jobs. Broken relationships, severe accidents, loss of employment, physical or sexual abuse, PTSD, the loss of valid insurance or worker’s compensation claims, the need to support disabled family members, and unexpected evictions are just a few of the many factors that launch people into homelessness. More than that, our unhoused neighbors include veterans, people with permanent disabilities, seniors, married couples, single moms and their kids, survivors of domestic violence, and people with mental health and substance abuse challenges. They are just like the rest of us, because they are us. They are our neighbors in the most fundamental sense. If you don’t know what I mean by that, please read and reflect on this story that Jesus tells in the Gospel according to Luke. There’s much more to say, but I’ll close with that for now.

Here’s the petition link again so you don’t have to scroll up: http://chng.it/nJjJ5qJv.

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