Aurora mayor revives controversial proposal to ban homeless people from camping

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AURORA | As he promised to do nearly six months ago, Mayor Mike Coffman is resurrecting a proposal to ban people without homes from camping in Aurora, according to a Friday announcement on social media.

The change to city rules would be considered by Aurora’s City Council at its Feb. 7 study session and may be formally considered on Feb. 14. Under Coffman’s proposal, individuals would be given seven days’ notice to abandon their campsite, so long as the city can “provide an alternate location for those in an encampment to go to before it can be abated.”

Under the previous version of the ban, which failed on a tie vote in August, the “alternate location” would have to be a sanctioned shelter site. Coffman has promoted the ban as a public safety measure and a “humane” way of addressing the growing problem of homelessness. Opponents argue it would criminalize the city’s homeless while doing little to get them into shelter.

Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson was also critical of the measure in using police resources to manage what she said has become a pervasive societal problem, not a criminal one.

“As the chief of police, I have been very clear that I do not want to be a part of enforcing this ban,” Wilson said during a hearing about the failed bill in August. “ … Right now we’re doing this because we don’t have any other options, but I think as a city we can do better.”

At the time, Coffman said he was “shocked” at Wilson’s response.

Other critics questioned whether any sweeps would be possible, because there are too many homeless campers and too few shelter spaces to invoke enforcement as the proposal was written.

In 2020, the last time a survey of Aurora’s sheltered and unsheltered homeless population was undertaken on behalf of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 427 people were reported to be sleeping either on the streets, in emergency shelters or in transitional housing. Service providers generally agree that HUD point-in-time surveys are an undercount.

Lana Dalton of Aurora’s Department of Housing and Community Services said during a lecture at the Aurora History Museum Jan. 19 that only 130-150 shelter beds are available on any given night. 

City spokesman Michael Brannen later said that number is augmented by additional resources in the event of severe weather or if a person is a victim of domestic violence. The Aurora Day Resource Center can hold up to 75 mats during a weather emergency. The city may also use hotels and motels if the resource center is over capacity.

Hotel and motel vouchers may also be issued in domestic violence situations, and Brannen also mentioned the Pallet shelter associated with the Salvation Army, which assists 30-60 people, and the 25 tents available at Restoration Christian Ministries.

Dalton told council members on Monday that the tents are inefficient to heat, costing the city around $1,500 per week, and that they are not considered sustainable as a shelter resource.

She also told the group that the city is looking at purchasing an additional 30-36 new Pallet shelters with federal grant funds.

The city doesn’t plan on closing the shelters when the weather warms because of the demand for shelter space, Dalton said.

A safe parking lot which opened last year in the city can also accommodate 20 vehicles.

While Coffman wrote on Friday that there will be “no fines or penalties for those in an unauthorized encampment,” campers could be arrested or fined if they don’t move.

Coffman said there have been no reported cases of campers failing to move after being ordered to do so, which Tim Joyce, an assistant city attorney, told the council in August.

A representative of Aurora’s Police Department said Friday that they would need time to confirm whether that information was still current.

Since council members deadlocked on the last proposed ban, city rules required Coffman to wait six months before bringing his idea back to the dais. The amended version of the ban would give campers more notice than the original — a week rather than 72 hours.

The February hearings on Coffman’s proposal would also mark the first time the idea has come before Aurora’s new, conservative-leaning City Council.

The group split along party lines after the departure of Councilmember Nicole Johnston last summer, reflected in the 5-5 vote that stymied Coffman’s original proposal.

Conservatives, led by Coffman, secured a majority of council seats in November. While campaigning, most of the candidates indicated support for Coffman’s proposed camping ban.

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None
None
3 months ago

Good

Susan Carr
Susan Carr
3 months ago

Thank you Mayor. The police chief needs to be removed 6 months ago.

Doug
Doug
3 months ago
Reply to  Susan Carr

No absolutely not!

Max Parrish
Max Parrish
3 months ago

I guess Wilson and Perry want Aurora to be a first-class democrat city, complete with homeless squats all over the place. Those democrat policies are just so effective other places Perry can’t wait until Aurora is as fubar.

Dean
3 months ago

For some reason Chief Wilson is confused in her job description. If she feels she is not behind enforcing what the city and state laws are of extreme concern to most citizens. Then it’s time for her to switch jobs. She can apply to be Aurora’s new Chief Commander social worker, perhaps that will make her happy. That might even solve a couple other festering problems in her department as well.

Aurora voters sent a stern message last November. They are sick of Aurora’s previous do-nothing policy of disastrous homeless incursion all over the city. They want something done. They are worn-out of calling the city for code enforcement for piles of massive trash around these camps and be told, sorry you have to call the homeless outreach number. This has been a joke, courtesy of city taxpayers, managed by the city. The Aurora council has kicked this problem down the road long enough. Enough on council recognize this battle, citizens are fed up with. One that should have been already settled, but now are willing to meet this head on. All pretty straight forward and the mayor’s common-sense support.

Tom Bell
Tom Bell
3 months ago

Thats what happens when you let Republicans in. Abusing the homeless.
Mike Coffman is a jerk.

Doug
Doug
3 months ago
Reply to  Tom Bell

Hatred voters got what they wanted. Apathy voters allowed it to happen. Now the consequences.

DICK MOORE
3 months ago
Reply to  Doug

I don’t hate you, Doug, or anyone else and this voter did get what he wanted and am hopeful for the consequences.

Doug, if you are a far left wing progressive democrat, that is, a socialist, then I have very little respect for you or your thought process, but hatred, no, as I believe we are all still for the good old USA.

I do have my doubts that Marcano and Coombs are for the good old USA, though. My guess is they praise Cuba or maybe Venezuela.

BlueBird
3 months ago
Reply to  Tom Bell

“Abusing the homeless”….What are you talking about?!? The city enforces building codes, sanitation codes, parking violations, disturbing the peace, and many other guidelines that protect our community. WHY should “urban campers” not be expected to be compliant of civic guidelines?

Susan
Susan
3 months ago

Of course he wants a ban, and of course he has no viable plan on how to help people find permanent housing or assistance. Let’s just get rid of people and send them on their way. Send them to another city and who cares? Just don’t have unhoused in MY city, right Mayor? Disgusting. 

Khiry
Khiry
3 months ago
Reply to  Susan

Well said Susan. 👏

BlueBird
3 months ago
Reply to  Susan

Disgusting is the trash and unsanitary behavior of the “urban campers.” Really, enforcing city ordinances and at the same time directing people to services or back to their family is the only responsible thing for government to do.

Jennifer Hane
Jennifer Hane
3 months ago

People shouldn’t have to pay money to merely exist and occupy space. If a homeless encampment has become unsafe, then charge the offenders with whatever *actual* crime they’re committing. Otherwise, they aren’t hurting you, and you should leave them alone. Kindness to people who have no other place to go is more important than keeping Aurora pretty for all the snobs.

I’ve spotted a couple homeless camps within a mile or two of my house, and passed them on walks. They caused me zero problems.

BlueBird
3 months ago
Reply to  Jennifer Hane

…actually, most Aurora citizens are hardworking families that try to make ends meet and keep their families safe. They are not snobs.

DICK MOORE
3 months ago

Thank you Mayor. Keep the drug addicts out of our city. The Mayor and I know that a majority of the homeless on the streets are heroin or meth addicts. The Mayor knows because he investigated the situation and I know because I’ve investigated, likewise, in my own manner. Non addicts find a way to shelters and off the streets, heroin addicts do just the opposite, unless it’s freezing cold.

Although, I can’t really speak for our police chief because I do not know her, but I know many other coppers and they all know the nature of the homeless as I’ve stated. If the chief doesn’t know this then she’s certainly should.

I hope the Mayor and new City Council, quickly start the search for a new Chief and
City Manager. We need to start the leadership in Aurora in a totally different direction.

Debra MacKillop
Debra MacKillop
3 months ago

Coffman cares nothing about the homeless or vulnerable and struggling populations in Aurora. His mentor trump taught him to distract and deflect by blaming vulnerable groups that don’t have a voice, and use that to keep the attention on Coffman, divide the Council and divide Aurora, all to stay in power. Coffman pulled a despicable stunt “infiltrating” homeless camp, but he never tries to actually learn about homelessness and what the facts and data and experts teach us is most effective in trying to help them become more self-sufficient. I worked many years as social worker with Denver homeless and low-income populations and we had tremendous success with Housing First Model and affordable housing programs with wrap-around services to help people get housed and then maintain their housing and become more self-sufficient. We will never see a professional but incompetent politician like Coffman ever care to actually look at proven programs and do the hard work of developing them in Aurora, but he will keep blaming our problems and challenges on the homeless, and try to punish them to please his supporters.

Last edited 3 months ago by Debra MacKillop
Khiry
Khiry
3 months ago

I think that the mayor should build apartments for homeless people and for low income people who can’t afford colorado’s high rent. It’s sad he would put such a ban and not try to help. As a US citizen it’s sad how the government isn’t helping nor dealing with the real issues at hand. There’s way more homeless people out here than the article says and the mayor needs to Help not ban. Smh.

vern
vern
3 months ago

Well it is an issue. I don’t think too many want to live on the street. But when you have no permanent housing you also can not access jobs, food, housing and other social options easily. I have tried to get the city to consider some land that could be 24 units easily… but the city says a no… keep it one residence. The solution while not easy is still a no brain one when you look at increasing the number of units build-able on some lots that have lesser impact on the typical neighborhood. The city will give millions to a developer that wants to pay them off- but will not look at hundreds of small fixes. Yes we get the government we have… but none of them will be homeless any time soon…. so lets just sweep the streets and keep the owners happy.

Good Citizen
Good Citizen
3 months ago

I wouldn’t normally trust Coffman as far as I could throw him, but I like this plan. I would suggest eliminating the police from the equation as much as possible. They have neither the temperament, the training or the expertise to deal with these scumbags. As soon as they kill one of these losers, they will take the heat and the chief knows it. Since a bulldozer, a can of gas and a match aren’t viable either (my preference), special training in removing human trash is probably in order.