With Denver officials set to vote next week on a plan to ban “urban camping,” Aurora City Council is looking at how Denver’s plan could affect homelessness in Aurora.
City Council’s Public Safety Committee is scheduled to discuss the issue, but not for about a month.
Although Aurora doesn’t have a general anti-camping ordinance that applies city-wide, it does have policies that prohibit staying overnight in city parks and prohibit loitering overnight in the Colfax Corridor, according to City Attorney Charlie Richardson.
Councilwoman Molly Markert said she doesn’t think homeless people from Denver will cross the border into Aurora if Denver City Council passes the ordinance.
“There’s nothing here for them,” she said.
She said she doesn’t think there are enough services to help Aurora’s homeless, there needs to be more of an emphasis on services that help homeless people, both in Denver and Aurora.
Local homeless advocates and some who live on the city’s streets disagree with Markert and say they expect an influx of homeless people crossing Yosemite Street if Denver enacts the ban.
And they worry that an increase in the city’s homeless population could put a squeeze on local groups that serve the homeless.
At Aurora Warms the Night, which gives hotel vouchers to homeless people on the coldest nights, executive director Mary Hupp said she expects a Denver ban to push some homeless east across Yosemite, which divides the two cities.
“If we have different rules on one side of Yosemite, it may encourage a flow of people back and forth,” she said.
The topic points to the need for regional planning around issues like homelessness, Hupp said, so there aren’t different rules on different sides of the street.
Hupp also said she is worried about the effect a camping ban could have on the newly homeless who don’t have many places to turn other than sleeping outside.
Last year, 245 of the 333 adults Aurora Warms the Night helped were new clients — that means people who had never been homeless and sought the group’s services before.
“If there are laws outlawing living on the streets, it may inflict on a person newly homeless not only the trauma of having no place to be, but also an arrest record that will make their recovery even more difficult,” she said.
Some who live on Aurora’s streets say they expect a ban in Denver will mean a parade of homeless coming to Aurora.
A 46-year-old man who asked that his name not be used said a Denver ban may mean fewer homeless in Downtown Denver, but more in other cities.
“It’s just going to drive everybody to the suburbs, its going to mess things up for everybody. There are plenty of us out here already,” said the man, who has been homeless eight years and spent the past two years in Aurora.
Services for the homeless in Aurora are already limited to the hotel-voucher program, Comitis Crisis Center and Friends of St. Andrew, he said. Adding to the homeless population will only make that worse.
“They are already strained and we can barely get services,” he said.
The man said he hopes if the homeless are pushed out of Denver, they pick a city besides Aurora.
“I hope they go to Lakewood or Englewood or Westminster,” he said. “But Colfax is the main drag, and people hang out where they know.”
For several months, the city has been working on a program called “Aurora @ Home” that draws organizations together to address Aurora’s homeless problem. Organizations included are the Aurora Housing Authority, Aurora Mental Health Center, Arapahoe House and the Metro Community Provider Network.
Aurora Sentinel reporter Sara Castellanos contributed to this report.
Reach reporter Brandon Johansson at 720-449-9040 or [email protected]