Aurora says no to urban camping ban amid current homeless challenge across town – Boulder Daily Camera


A proposal to ban urban camping as a way to deal with rising homelessness in Aurora was narrowly rejected by city council on Monday night, dealing a blow to Mayor Mike Coffman, who pushed the measure.

The vote count was a tie at 5-5, which by Aurora’s rules means the measure fails. At the end of the meeting, the mayor indicated that he would try again to advance the measure in six months. There are several seats to be filled in November.

But a city spokesman clarified Tuesday morning that the city code requires that any measure rejected in a tie vote be submitted for a second vote at the next city council meeting – unless the council do not vote against. The next council meeting is August 23.

Coffman’s proposal would have banned camping on all public property, as well as on private properties where the owner has not given permission to camp. The city should have given the homeless person 72 hours’ notice to collect their belongings and move out before issuing a ticket.

The city should also make sure there is a place they can go before telling them to leave.

“No encampment can be reduced unless our city provides them with a designated area where they can move,” Coffman said Monday, ahead of the vote.

But at the council meeting on Monday night, several council members said the camping bans were not working. City Councilor Juan Marcano said Aurora only needs to look across town to Denver, where homelessness has become increasingly visible despite the city’s ban.

“See how well (a ban) has worked for them,” he said, comparing the sweeps of encampments to a never-ending game of mole-kick where the homeless were told to leave just by setting up tents in another part of town.

City Councilor Angela Lawson asked the mayor where the homeless would go after their camp was dismantled.

“Where are people going? ” she said. “If it passes, where are you going to put the people?” “

Aurora homelessness programs manager Lana Dalton told the Denver Post that Aurora has 150 shelter beds, which are usually at full capacity, and there are currently around 467 people. homeless in Colorado’s third largest city.

The city received 841 calls or contacts from residents about the issue in the first half of the year, with about half of those complaints being people living without a motorhome, Dalton said. There were also 29 “cut-downs” or camp clean-ups during this period. More and more settlements have appeared as the metropolitan area becomes less affordable.

“It’s exploding,” Dalton said of the homeless. “I feel like it’s been in the background for a while and COVID has brought it to light.”

Coffman said something needed to be done about it because “owners and business owners are really fed up with all the garbage that has built up around the camps and wants it to stop.”

This includes Jeff Eaton, owner of Mexican restaurant Senor Ric on East Mississippi Avenue. His restaurant is located near a homeless camp in the shadow of Interstate 225.

“I just have a lot of activity in and around the building and the building is vandalized and my customers are begging,” said Eaton, who supported Coffman’s measure. “Customers will choose not to come here because they will be docked in the parking lot. “

He said a person who was prowling his parking lot and asked to leave threw a landscaping log out of the restaurant window.

“It’s hard to get the police to react because they are understaffed,” Eaton said.

The mayor garnered support Monday night from City Councilor Françoise Bergan, who said the city needs to consider everyone who lives in Aurora when shaping policy.

“We have an obligation and a responsibility to the owners (too),” she said.

Monday night’s meeting featured a heated exchange between Coffman and Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson, who told the mayor she opposed the ban because it was not her role. Force understaffed to spend time breaking down camps in the city, especially with officers now exposed to potential liability under a statewide police reform law passed the last year.

Homeless advocates have long condemned camping bans as harsh and ineffective, even as cities like Denver, Boulder, Centennial and Parker have put in place such orders over the past decade.

Aurora City Councilor Crystal Murillo told the Post ahead of the meeting that the mayor’s proposed camping ban would be counterproductive to the city’s larger efforts to address the issue.

“I just think that at the end of the day it’s an inhumane way to treat people and it doesn’t address the root causes,” she said. “It does not address the full spectrum of homelessness issues.

Murillo said the city has been working for three years to develop a coordinated strategy to tackle homelessness. Last month, the city opened a sanctioned 30-tent campground, modeled on what Denver has done in the past year. Dalton said it only took 19 days for the tents to be filled.

She said the city is considering establishing safe parking sites, where people living outside of their vehicles have a safe place to go at night.

“The needs are great and our resources are weak,” she said.

Updated at 11:40 a.m. on August 10, 2021: Due to a city code requirement, the initial version of this story incorrectly stated that Monday’s vote was the last on the measure. City council is due to vote again on the homeless ban proposal on August 23.

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