It never fails. Every time I see another news article with a headline that includes the words “crackdown on homelessness,” I know that whatever it is I’m going to read, it’s more than likely going to be filled with a parade of asshole behaviors.

And when you look at how the homeless population has been treated in 2024—both by the state and the feds—the only phrase that comes to mind is, “Send in the Ass-Clowns.”

In April of this year, the city of Denver started clearing homeless encampments without providing direct housing options to those impacted. This was a program the city had been having success with during the prior six months, with at least 1,447 people having been brought indoors per city data, before suddenly stopping when it ran out of options.

And in June, the US Supreme Court rejected a constitutional challenge to ordinances enacted by the city of Grants Pass, Oregon that punish homeless people (with a fine) for sleeping on public property when they have nowhere else to go. The justices said the measures do not run afoul of the Constitution’s Eighth Amendment, which bars cruel and unusual punishment.

So yes, it is now technically illegal to be poor in some parts of America.

With an estimated 39% increase in people experiencing homelessness from 2022 to 2023 in Colorado, it seems that those with political power have one of two options. Either ratchet up the inhumanity or look at the systemic issues surrounding homelessness and make realistic, actionable changes.

Surprisingly enough, it seems that Governor Polis has opted to go for the latter by signing legislation that will help reduce rental costs statewide by allowing more occupants in a single residence.

Enter HB24-1007—the HOME Act.

With the HOME Act going into effect this month, residential occupancy limits are now a thing of the past. By eliminating discriminatory occupancy limits in Colorado, while expanding housing opportunities, the law effectively ends cities from creating or enforcing statutes that limit the number of people allowed to live in a home purely based on their relationship with others.

Before this law, about two dozen Colorado municipalities had some sort of occupancy limits on the books. Cities including Fort Collins, Commerce City, and Littleton had what’s commonly known as a “U plus 2” law, where no more than three unrelated people could live together.

Anyone who has rented an apartment or house almost anywhere in the Centennial state can attest to how desperately a law like this is needed. NODOBY in the middle- or lower-middle class can afford to live anywhere on their own. And given that, per the Colorado Fiscal Institute, about one in four Colorado jobs have been either low or minimum wage since 2019, I’m assuming that most of us reading this can relate.

Per Zillow, the current median rent for all bedrooms and all property types in Colorado is $2,288 per month. When you look at the financial impact the HOME Act would have on a group of people considering moving into a dwelling with this same amount of rent per month, the differences are huge. With three people, each would pay $762; with four, it reduces to $572 per month—that amount of extra money can be life-changing.

During Denver’s Basic Income Project, applicants who received even just a $50 per month deposit saw an increase in housing stability with 43% of the participants finally gaining shelter. So, with the real possibility of having hundreds of extra dollars each month through rent savings via extra roommates, this law will certainly allow for more people to gain access to affordable shelter.

But there’s also one element to what Polis has done that I believe flies under the radar.

There have been two times in my life that I’ve been homeless. In each case there was a never-ending supply of anxieties; where was my next meal going to come from? Did I have any of the necessary items to find a job or interview for one? Is there even a future for me anymore?

Also, in each case, I was saved by friends who lived in apartments that were already beyond capacity. For some reason, the individuals I knew who opened their doors to the homeless population seemed to always have living spaces that were bursting at the seams with people. And I can say that had it not been for the lenient landlords who turned a blind eye to these shenanigans, I have no idea how long I would have been filled with those aforementioned anxieties.

Though I know Polis’ signature doesn’t alleviate some of the other systemic issues that can lead to homelessness—like finding a way to employ thousands of homeless people while understanding that minimum wage is supposed to be a living wage—it’s an incredibly positive start. I’m just hoping this law will kick off a renaissance of forward-thinking when it comes to tackling the homeless epidemic.

Fingers crossed …