People experiencing homelessness detained exiting Central Class Room restrooms

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Posted Fri, May 19, 2017

Auraria Campus Police stop and question men suspected to not be students outside of bathroom in Central Classroom Building. [Photo: Miriam Mimi Madrid]AHEC hires lobbyists in opposition of homeless “decriminalization” efforts

AHEC hires lobbyists in opposition of homeless “decriminalization” efforts

DENVER, Auraria  Campus– On Feb. 28, Auraria Campus Police officers stopped suspected vagrants after exiting the men’s restroom in the Central Classroom Building to run their identification.

“It’s not the first time I have cops messing with me. I just want to take a leak,” said a detained man short in stature with a black hood and hat on. He asked to remain anonymous.

When Chris Sabin, Master Patrol Officer, asked him where he resided the man said, “I live in Denver. I’m just kind of moving.” He added, “In the Tivoli they still mess with me. They ran my name just last week.”

Officer Sabin said, “I don’t know what for, unless you were over the third floor.”

As the five minute detention came to a close, the man told Officer Sabin, “This shouldn’t be a big deal.”

Sabin replied, “That’s why we are just educating people. It’s not a big deal.”

Officer Sabin said they had received calls before from the Central Building. “People are scaring folks in the bathroom,” he said. He could not give information on any particular cases.

A banner hangs from the corridor that connects the Central and West buildings on the Auraria Campus. [Photo: Miriam Mimi Madrid]

For many people experiencing homelessness, finding a safe bathroom is a big deal. Many students rest, sleep and eat in public spaces around campus, but if you are experiencing homelessness those acts remain illegal.

On April 18, 10 days later after police were stopping people after using the restrooms in the Central Building, a banner hung between the corridor connecting to the West Building. The banner with bananas strapped to the bottom read, “MSU SUPPORTS CRIMINALIZING ITS HOMELESS STUDENTS #StudentsStrikeBack.”

Adhered to an open window, a neon green sign directed people to their website for more information. The social media account has a photograph of another banner drop strewn over the top level of the Tivoli Parking Garage that read, “Dear Homeless, your survival is not legal. Love, AHEC, MSU, UCD, +CCD”

The opening page on the website reads, “Auraria Campus actively works to criminalize homeless people and violate human rights.” The website notes that the Auraria Higher Education Center has actively spent money on lobbyists against bills that would decriminalization homeless people. In the two documents titled Right to Rest 2015 and 2016, it shows the the lobby firm the Auraria Higher Education Center hired to represent their oppositional stance to legislation that the ACLU supports on human rights pretexts.

In 2015, AHEC hired the Colorado Legislative Services LLC. who have clients include the Colorado Oil and Gas Association and Anheuser-Bush. Melanie Layton, partner/owner and lobbyist, for Colorado Legislative Services LLC along with Zoey DeWolf, an associate at the firm lobbied nine different times in 2016 on behalf of AHEC.

ACPD officers have a conversation after letting a man who is not a student go after using the men’s bathroom. [Photo: Miriam Mimi Madrid]

A day later after the banner drops on April 19, 2017 the Right to Rest Act was voted down for the third time, 8-to-6 by state lawmakers sitting on the Local House Committee. This act could have brought protections to marginalized individuals experiencing homelessness across Colorado by banning law enforcement agencies and municipalities from “criminalizing” homelessness by issuing citations or arresting anyone who rests, sleeps and eats in public spaces.

As reported in the Westword, Nathan Woodliff-Stanley executive director for ACLU of Colorado said, “Pushing people out of sight and out of mind doesn’t do the real work of finding solutions.”

ACPD keeps a Daily Crime Log online that lists the nature of crimes with basic details of their interactions and outcomes.

Between the dates of March 9, through May 9, the following crimes have been cleared by adult arrests with most often arrestees designated in the log as not being affiliated with the campus: 5 occasions for Urinating in Public, 7 for Trespassing, 20 times for Arrest Warrants and 6 times for a combination of the previous crimes in addition to giving false information, being in possession of controlled substances or injection devices.

No additional details about each arrest is noted in the Daily Logs or detentions and interactions that lead to no arrest. New designation for data collection should entail if a person is experiencing homelessness during the time of arrest. People experiencing homelessness often receive tickets for participating in survival acts in public spaces they cannot pay or attend court and default to arrest warrants. Data collection on this demographic can help support ACPD educational and referral efforts to support people experiencing homelessness.

The only spaces on campus for public restroom use are in the library and the Tivoli Student Union below the third floor. ACPD policy is clearly stated in the student handbook, but if people are not students, they do not have access to this information and risk breaking the law.

For some people, like the anonymous man Officer Sabin stopped, attending to their bodily functions comes before weighing the illegality of such act.

“I just need to use the restroom sometimes and do number two,” he said.

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Miriam Mimi Madrid

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