Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman presents proposed camping ban
While Mayor Coffman has explained that he believes the move would be a step forward for Aurora, those who oppose the ban say otherwise.
The ban itself will still have to go through several committees before it has a chance to make it to city council for review, which he hopes will happen by the end of next month.
“I think it is very important for the city of Aurora to take this step,” he told 9NEWS on Thursday. “… to take this step by offering these homeless people an alternative place to go in the city of Aurora which is safe, which has sanitary conditions. But the garbage, these unsanitary conditions of these camps which popping up all over our city must stop.
He added that the proposal had several objectives, including enabling the homeless to find alternative shelters and improving public health and safety.
The city also said the number of emergency shelter beds currently available hovers around 150.
“I mean, you’ll never have a 100% solution. I mean, you always have these encampments popping up,” Coffman said. “But I think it’s important to have it in law and have a place for them.”
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Explain the proposed ban
Coffman posted the text of the proposed ban on several social media pages, including his Facebook and Twitter.
According to the text of the proposal, if approved, it would be “illegal for anyone to camp on private property without the express written consent of the owner or his representative …” and “… for anyone to camp on any public property, except in any place where camping has been expressly authorized by the service having the control, management and supervision of public property. “
With regard to law enforcement, the text says that an officer cannot issue a summons, arrest or enforce the ban unless “… city staff or a police officer. police gave a person in a camp a verbal or written order to move out of the camp and take their belongings with them … ”and the person sentenced to move was offered a placement in a shelter.
If the person refuses or does not leave camp property, the rule could be applied.
The text also explains that “any person found guilty of having violated this section will be liable to the penalties provided for in article 1-13 of the city code.“
Under this code, it includes penalties such as a fine of up to $ 2,650 or up to one year in prison.
However, city spokesman Michael Brannen told 9NEWS that the city attorney’s office said the fine of $ 2,650 or one year in jail would be the maximum penalty, and that it is very unlikely that such a sanction will be imposed.
“The court would be much more likely to use mental health and drug programs, resources and initiatives to help individuals. An individual’s inability to pay a fine if imposed would not result in jail time. “, explained Brannen via email.
Coffman added that the goal is not to penalize people.
“The goal is to get them to a designated facility that is safe, meaning sanitary …” he said, in part.
Part of this process also includes possible work on the designation of an area, or zones, for homeless people for the camp.
Additionally, the City of Aurora is currently seeking community feedback on its “safe outdoor spaces” to address homelessness.
Shelter options currently on display include pallet shelters, tiny houses, and examples of secure parking lots with shower, toilet trailer and more.
You can submit comments here.
Refusal of some local leaders
While Coffman believes the move would be a step forward for Aurora, those who oppose the ban say otherwise.
“The first impression is that it basically does two things. The first is that it codifies the existing policies that we have in place to reduce the camps,” said Juan Marcano, member of Aurora city council, Thursday. “And codifying some of these policies, I think, is actually very bad because those policies have to be flexible, because the scenario, you know, around these camps and the specific situations can change. So the departments need to be flexible. flexibility rather than being fundamentally forced. by law to always do things in a very specific way. “
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Marcano added that he believed that another detrimental impact of the ban is the punishment that homeless people can suffer.
“It just kicks people when they are at their lowest point in life,” he said. “… And as policymakers, we need to follow the evidence and best practice rather than just, you know, gutting or frankly crafting harmful public policies that will end up costing money. the city over time and not address the root causes of the problem. “
John Parvensky, the chairman and CEO of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, explained that he believes the proposal is an attempt to implement a “failed” and “flawed” policy.
“… by creating a camping ban and applying it to people who really have no choice but to sleep in places because they don’t have access to the quality shelter they have. need and do not have access to affordable housing that they must end their homelessness. So it is bad policy. And unfortunately, it is not very well thought out, “he said. he said in part.
He adds that he believes there should be more investment in infrastructure and emergency shelter.
“And it is only when these elements are in place that you will see the number of rough sleepers decrease,” he said, adding that he felt the ban was counterproductive. “And that doesn’t really lift the spirits and the morale of the community. It really creates divisions that are very difficult to tackle. The solution to homelessness is adequate supportive housing for those with ongoing needs, adequate emergency shelter. “
A problem with a past in the Denver subway
In January, it was reported that Coffman spent a week living on the streets of Denver and Aurora posing as a homeless person, which drew criticism from some local leaders, the calling it a “publicity stunt”.
Coffman said in January he was putting on hold a decision to ban camping in Aurora until he was better able to understand the impact of such a ban.
When asked on Thursday whether the end-of-December experience played a role in shaping the proposed ban, Coffman responded in part: “Well, that will probably play more of a role in terms of what will be. the following. This will play more of a factor of what the alternative looks like in terms of – which I believe we certainly need to provide emergency shelter, I think, to anyone who needs it. But there is one element that [someone who] suffers from a mental illness that will never be able to support himself. And we have to take this into account. And I certainly saw him during the week. “
In Denver, there has been a back and forth in recent months to enforce a camping order.
In January, the Denver Police Department resumed enforcement of the city’s urban camping ban. The ban itself faced several legal challenges.
Do the camping bans work?
On the same day in January, Metro Denver Homeless Initiative counts the number of people who are homeless.
“The COVID pandemic, we are convinced, has made the situation worse,” said Metro Denver Homeless Initiative executive director Matt Meyer.
The count did not take place in 2021.
Even when this happens, it is a snapshot of a day of the year. Statistics from that day in Denver showed 996 homeless people in the city in 2020 and 554 homeless in 2019.
Denver also has a camping ban.
Denver Police provided Then with Kyle Clark statistics from June 2012 to April 2019. In total, 33 citations of banning camping were issued.
Compare that to Boulder, which also has a camping ban.
In 2020, there were 118 non-shelters in Boulder and Boulder Police issued 255 violations of the camping ban.
In 2019, there were 53 homeless violations and 541 violations.
In 2018, there were 158 homeless violations and 378 violations.
A spokeswoman for the city of Boulder said the 255 violations in 2020 were down “due to directives from officers to limit close interactions with those suspected of crimes to prevent exposure and spread of COVID-19 “.
“It’s about knowing what the priorities of this community are. What priorities have been given to law enforcement,” said Meyer. “While a community doesn’t have a lot of quotes, you can’t assume that it doesn’t have an unsheltered population. It could be that that unsheltered population isn’t that visible, so the community doesn’t. is not as concerned about this. “
Centennial’s camping ban is on city property. The Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office, which handles law enforcement for Centennial, released two citations in 2020 and one in 2021.
Parker has had a camping ban since 2018 and issued two warnings in 2019.
“I don’t think it’s a meaningful way for us to know if this actually affects the number of people who are homeless,” Meyer said. “I think what this tells us is whether the community takes a law enforcement position with people experiencing homelessness versus a service position.”
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