Last week, while scrolling through my Instagram feed, I came across a post from MediablackoutUSA, an organization committed to reporting and uncovering information regarding news that traditional media outlets don’t report on. This particular post, which can be found here on their website, reports on the introduction of a new Colorado House bill addressing issues associated with homelessness.

AP05021003348-638x436Colorado’s General Assembly recognizes the increasing criminalization of homelessness by localities within the state, and the struggles that homeless person face when harassed by law enforcement even though they’ve done nothing wrong  As a result, the Colorado House has drafted a bill (House Bill 15-1264) with an aim to provide “persons experiencing homelessness” with a “bill of rights.” Dubbed the “Colorado Right to Rest Act,” this piece of state legislation would make it a right for the homeless “to use and move freely in public spaces without discrimination,” as well as “eat and accept food” and “occupy a legally parked vehicle” without being subjected to harassment. In the bill, there are also measures that would allow a homeless person to file a lawsuit if he/she feels that his/her rights have been violated or infringed. (The bill can be read here, in its entirety, on the Colorado state legislature’s website.)

It seems like a progressive piece of legislation, one that actually seeks to protect the rights our citizens who just happen to be down on their luck at this point in their life. As homeless people, they should be targeted and criminalized in the manner that they currently are. A few Colorado homeless citizens gave personal accounts describing the way they are treated. One woman, who has been ticketed over a dozen times for resting in public, spoke by saying: “I’ve been kicked away, flashlight in your face, officers kicking you and telling you to move along, ticket in hand.” Moved by the testimonies, the legislators are hopeful that the bill will be successful in becoming law.

This bill can be looked at as being one small (but still significant) step in the right direction to combatting homelessness. Although it does not help directly in getting these Colorado citizens back on their feet, it does a lot to keep them from being in and out of jail and entering into an “inescapable cycle of poverty.”

Some see this bill as being more than a moralistic issue, however. Across the nation, from Colorado to Florida to North Carolina, research studies have been conducted to assess the costs that homelessness bares on society. These studies have found that homelessness costs taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars (per homeless person), largely in the form of incarceration and medical care costs. Osceola County (in central Florida) shelled out $5 million during 2004-2013 alone, to jail just 37 homeless people. The studies have shown that it’s way more cost-effective to invest this money into housing the homeless. Providing them with shelter and the resources to make it back up the ladder of success cuts costs by nearly two-thirds, one North Carolina study found. Not to mention— it’s the morally right thing to do.

Reading these new articles and analysis reminded me of our class discussion on vagabonds and vagrancy laws during the Jim Crow era. It seems like incarceration is the sure-fire way to keep people marginalized, even if it means draining money into wasteful forms of spending. But, then again, money fuels the exploitative system, all at the expense of hard-earned taxpayers’ dollars; so in Capital’s eyes, this spending serves many underlying purposes. It’s good to see someone talking the necessary steps to counter this. And others around the country are following suit. I hope the Colorado bill passes and can’t wait to see how it plays out in the long run.

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