Denver Homelessness Organizer Avoids Jail Time, Still on Probation

An advocate for the homeless who was subject to a trespassing and unauthorized camping violation in Denver won’t face jail time after appearing in court and facing a possible sentence of up to 30 days behind bars.

Lawyers for Terese Howard, 31, an organizer with Denver Homeless Out Loud, an organization advocating for the dignity, rights and choices of people experiencing homelessness, agreed to a guilty plea with the city in order to keep Howard under probation but out of jail.

Howard was among 10 who were arrested in October 2015 for sleeping in a community garden owned by the Denver Housing Authority, the Denver Post reported, and was placed on probation as a result of that trespassing violation.

Howard violated that probation when the City of Denver began enacting an anti-camping ordinance passed in 2012 with an aggressive sweeping campaign. She was one of three who were arrested and charged with unauthorized camping in November 2016.

“Terese was sleeping on the streets one night, and police officers took her blanket and issued her a ticket, which was a violation of her probation,” said Benjamin Dunning, a Denver Homeless Out Loud organizer and founder.

The Denver Post reported in April that Howard, Randy Russell, 56, and Jerry Burton, 55, were found guilty of unauthorized camping and a count of interfering with police and were ordered to perform community service and were put on probation. That sentence triggered Howard’s most recent court battle.

Howard is among those fighting to eliminate the camping ban, which advocates call the “survival ban,” arguing that this name more accurately portrays what the anti-camping ordinance is.

The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, the ACLU of Texas and Dechert LLP were recently successful in their attempts to temporarily restrain an anti-camping ordinance in Houston after police issued citations at an encampment site occupied by the homeless in late August.

Three quarters of all cases challenging camping ordinances, evictions of homeless encampments and sleeping in public have been successful since 2014, the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty found.

Jordan Frias

Jordan Frias is an editorial assistant at Boston Herald and a contributor of Spare Change News. He is vice president of the New England Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and a graduate of Northeastern University's School of Journalism.

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