Terese Howard
Denver Homeless Out Loud – 415-517-5603

Ben Price
Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund – 717-254-3233

DENVER, CO: As the State of Colorado and City of Denver continue to ignore the core causes of a housing crisis that has pushed thousands onto the streets, Denver residents took the historic step of proposing a legally enforceable human “Right to Survive.”

The proposed law is the first of its kind because of its enforcement measures. It would have recognized a human Right to Survive in public spaces within the city and county of Denver — and would have given local residents standing to enforce the right.

“There are growing efforts to criminalize homelessness across the U.S. We will not let that happen here,” stated Terese Howard, an organizer with Denver Homeless Out Loud.

Fox News shamelessly attacked the measure. The National Association of Realtors and other wealthy interests campaigned against it as well, outspending local supporters 25:1 to defeat it.

The initiative challenged the City of Denver’s ongoing ban on resting and sheltering in public by recognizing rights to rest and shelter in a “non-obtrusive manner” on public land. The historic initiative would have made it a civil rights violation for police, the city, private corporations and private security to violate the human Right to Survive in public. It was drafted with assistance from the CommunityEnvironmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF).

CELDF’s National Organizing Director, Ben Price, stated, “This idea of a real human right to survive in the 21st century did not die in Denver. It was born – through the determination and commitment of the people who live here. Those who anted up $2.5+ million to defeat the measure have not ended the struggle for basic rights sparked by Denver residents advancing this remarkable initiative.”

Petitioner Jerry Burton, a Marine veteran who is now experiencing homelessness, stated, “We all share this land, it’s for all of us. This is a God given right, no man and no government can tell someone how to live. We are not going anywhere.” 

CELDF applauds Denver Homeless Out Loud and their local allies for their concerted efforts to advance the human Right to Survive, including for the propertyless, in this moment of abhorrent wealth inequality.


Campaign finance reports:

Fox News coverage, warning the initiative would turn Denver into Kolkata, India:


The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund is a non-profit, public interest law firm providing free and affordable legal services to communities facing threats to their local environment, local agriculture, local economy, and quality of life. Its mission is to build sustainable communities by assisting people to assert and exercise their right to local self government and the rights of nature.

Additional Resources