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Experts to host community dinner to discuss homelessness

Event aims to lay groundwork for potential coalition
The <a href="https://aclu-co.org/">American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado</a> and the <a href="https://www.nlchp.org/">National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty</a> will host a free dinner focused on discussing solutions to homelessness.

The criminalization of homelessness, hunger and housing will be among some of the big topics of community discussion at a dinner Wednesday that will feature a talk by a senior lawyer from the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado and the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty are jointly hosting the event, “Conversation on Homelessness in Durango: Charting a More Compassionate Course,” at the La Plata County Fairgrounds.

At the dinner, a white paper, “A Year Without Sleep,” will be presented to highlight how rules aimed at regulating homelessness passed in the last year have affected homeless residents, said Donna Mae Baukat, executive director of Community Compassion Outreach, a nonprofit that is helping organize the event.

Rather than focusing on laws to regulate homelessness, the event is meant to turn the community’s attention to solutions, she said.

“We are trying to change the direction of the dialogue,” she said.

As part of the event, attendees will pick one of five discussions to attend about hunger, criminalizing homelessness, housing, community, and mental health and addiction.

The event is meant to help lay the groundwork for a potential coalition to work on the issue with representation from businesses, government, health care providers, advocates, homeless residents and others, Baukat said.

ACLU representatives will also hold a workshop Wednesday afternoon to help homeless residents understand how to interact with law enforcement in a way that will protect their constitutional rights, Baukat said.

The workshop will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. at Durango Christian Church, 255 E. 11th St.

The dinner will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the La Plata County Fairgrounds.

To RSVP, visit Communitycompassionoutreach.com.

A free dinner will be provided.

mshinn@durangoherald.com

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