(The Center Square) – A lawsuit filed Thursday against the city of Boulder challenges two ordinances that prohibit camping in public spaces.
The lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Colorado seeks to prevent the city from enforcing ordinances that prohibit people experiencing homelessness from storing property outside and another that forbids sleeping outside under a temporary structure.
“When the shelter turns people away into the cold, it offers them a blanket – the bare minimum they need to protect themselves outside,” Anne Kurtz, a lawyer with the ACLU, said in a statement. “But the City of Boulder makes using that blanket a crime.”
Sarah Huntley, a spokesperson for the city, told The Center Square the lawsuit is under review.
“The city will comment at the appropriate time through its filings in the court process,” Huntley added.
The lawsuit comes as city leaders continue to search for ways to combat visible homelessness in Boulder. Most recently, the Board of County Commissioners discussed expanding the ordinance to prohibit people from sleeping in their cars, but ultimately decided to reject the bill after a public comment hearing on May 19.
The ACLU previously sent two letters to Boulder officials voicing their concerns about the legality of the two ordinances.
In one letter from July 2021, the ACLU said Boulder “makes shelter available to only a limited few, and with the other, criminalizes those forced to sleep outdoors under the false narrative that they are resistant to services.”
“The scheme betrays a governmental aspiration ultimately to drive unhoused residents out of Boulder,” the letter said. “This approach to homelessness violates the Constitution, and we urge the City and [Homeless Solutions for Boulder County] to change course.”
A homeless service provider in Boulder, Feet Forward, has joined the ACLU in the lawsuit. Attorneys with Hutchinson Black and Cook, LLC, and Killmer, Lane & Newman, LLP.
“Just as the war on drugs proved to be a disaster that did not reduce drug use but did wreck lives, Boulder’s war on homelessness is a disaster that has not reduced the number of people living outside but is wrecking lives for unhoused people in our city,” Dan Williams, a cooperating attorney from Hutchinson Black and Cook, LLC., said in a statement.