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Poll Shows Controversial 'Right To Survive' Initiative Leading

DENVER (CBS4) - A new poll shows the so-called "Right To Survive" initiative would pass by a nearly 2-1 margin if the election were held today, according to polling data obtained by CBS4. Although opponents of Denver's Initiative 300 have raised more than 10 times as much money as supporters of the measure, the poll shows strong early support for the measure based solely on ballot language.

"Wow!" said Raffi Mercuri, campaign manager for the RTS initiative, when told by CBS4 about the early polling.

"That's great. Denverites know the right choice when they see it or hear it."

The poll was commissioned by Together Denver, a group opposing the proposed law. The poll shows while most voters aren't yet familiar with the measure, most of those who hear the ballot language say they will vote in favor of it.

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Initiative 300 would overturn Denver's camping ban and allow the homeless to camp on sidewalks, in parks and any public spaces. It would also allow living in cars. Supporters of Initiative 300 say Denver's 2012 camping ban puts the lives of the homeless at risk since it does not allow them to use anything to protect themselves from the elements beyond their clothing.

They also say there are not enough beds in shelters to accommodate Denver's homeless population.

"This is a human rights issue," said Mercuri.

Opponents of the initiative say allowing people to sleep outside in public places is not safe, healthy or helpful to the homeless. They contend the measure is overly broad and will have sweeping consequences.

In the poll obtained by CBS4, 56 percent said they would vote in favor of the initiative based solely on the wording while 33 percent said they would vote no on RTS, and 11 percent were undecided. The poll was conducted between Jan. 30 and Feb. 4 and surveyed 500 likely voters.

However the poll found that after hearing pros and cons about the measure, voter support dropped 12 percent with 44 percent still saying they would vote for it.

Roger Sherman, with Together Denver, told CBS4, "We were encouraged to see that when Denver voters understand the risks of Initiative 300 and they learn that the measure fails to provide support for people experiencing homelessness today, they vote no.

"But on the surface, the ballot question itself seems pretty innocuous, so we're working hard between now and May 7 to make sure Denver voters understand that 300 is not a solution to Denver's homelessness challenge."

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In a two page briefing on potential impacts of the measure, issued by the city but not signed by anyone specific, listed impacts of the measure passing include park curfews no longer being enforceable, additional costs for maintaining and repairing parks and "The Police Department's Homeless Outreach Team may curtail interactions with individuals in need of services to avoid accusations of harassment."

The city document goes on to say, "It explicitly overrides existing laws and makes it a crime for law enforcement agencies or other entities to violate the rights established by the measure."

One potential impact listed by the city; "The ordinance would enable individuals to set up tents in a non- obstructive manner on sidewalks, alleys and streets, so long as the right-of-way is not completely 'impassable.'

In a March disclosure, Together Denver said it had raised $588,784 to fight Initiative 300. The Denver Right To Survive Initiative Committee reported it had raised $53,946.78.

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