EDITORIAL: As warned, Aurora’s homeless camping ban isn’t deterring campers

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A home can be seen at the edge of Sand Creek Park in North Aurora, where several homeless camps are scattered throughout the area. 
File photo by PHILIP B. POSTON/Sentinel Colorado

If you haven’t noticed fewer homeless people camping along Aurora streets, in vacant lots and across the region’s vast open spaces, it’s because the city’s new much-ballyhooed ban on homeless camping is only moving people around and not into shelters or out of the city, according to homeless outreach workers.

Denver, which has had a similar ban for about a decade, also has the same, persistent problem with teams of tents in large and small encampments scattered completely across that city.

It’s been just over two months into enforcing Aurora’s nascent effort to evict homeless people camping in public places, but what experts warned Aurora about appears to already be the case: Banning homeless camping doesn’t stop it.

The organizations and people who work with and look after the thousands of people in Aurora living in their cars or on the streets report that the ranks of homeless people are, indeed, moving when threatened with tickets or jail.

They’re not, however, moving into shelters, homes or even a new city. They’re just moving along to another place to pitch a tent or create cardboard and tarp shelters. 

“These campers are not moving on to Denver by any means,” Mile High Behavioral Health CEO Bob Dorshimer told The Sentinel this week, adding that outreach workers in the region have been able to reconnect with ousted campers at new locations. “They’re finding alternative places in Aurora to camp.”

It isn’t that the city wasn’t warned that a ban on homeless camping would both just harass homeless people into moving somewhere nearby. The city was also alerted that, even worse, making their homelessness a criminal offense and jailing them, at great expense to taxpayers, will only end with turning them back to their community to continue being homeless, and now with a criminal record.

Fortunately, the city, reportedly, hasn’t even written a ticket to any homeless camper. When notified, they just move on, and not to a shelter or permanent home.

Expert after expert, study after study opposed the slim majority on city council supporting Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman’s insistence that a ban would make a difference in the problem here. The repeated advisements against it were amid almost the same ban having made no difference in Denver, Boulder or any other city using bans to solve or even mitigate the growing national scourge of homelessness.

It isn’t as if Coffman’s already failing program was a no-harm, no-foul, proposition for residents, businesses and taxpayers, tormenting only the wretched poor, often addicted and mostly mentally ill people without homes. The city estimates running the bans and other low-level programs alone could cost up to $4 million a year.

Aurora has serious money flowing into several directions and programs, including those that provide Pallet shelters to people, safe spaces for tents and cars, and money to help operate the Aurora Day Resource Center and the Comitis Crisis Center.

The financial picture is even more grim in Denver. A recent story by the Denver Post’s Elise Schmelzer on the Denver Street Enforcement Team, a non-police-directed homeless camping ban program in Denver, revealed that that project alone costs Denver taxpayers about $1.5 million a year.

Homeless activists and camping ban proponents alike admit the Denver program has not diminished the level of homelessness plaguing that city, but instead it has just shuffled homeless campers from one site to another.

It’s an astoundingly cruel and poor use of hundreds of millions of tax dollars between Aurora and Denver.

Now, Aurora is committed to this wasteful and brutish campaign, but it doesn’t address the justified expectation by everyone who lives in Aurora and Denver that local governments ensure a safe community for everyone.

Thousands of people without homes camping on sidewalks, along parks, trails and behind stores is not safe for those in the camps or the rest of the community.

Above all, it’s tragic that, as a society, we would ignore and even harass people who are homeless for whatever the reason. Much of this persecution comes from “tough on crime, “bootstraps” and “welfare queen” mythologies, wrongfully insisting that the bulk of people in the metroplex “choose” to be homeless and actually enjoy their debilitating drug or alcohol addiction or untreated mental illness and should therefore be treated as annoying, self-indulgent reprobates.

Spending any time at all with people suffering from homelessness or those who regularly work with them paints a much more accurate and complicated picture of the problem. More than anything, it’s a problem of poverty. There’s no shortage of middle class and wealthy drug and alcohol addicts who have homes. The difference being, they have the means to keep their homes, for now.

Denver and Aurora, and other metro towns and counties as well, continue to spend hundreds of millions, or even billions, of dollars doing little or nothing to either help the bulk of homeless people regain their footing or mitigate, let alone end, the growing problem of people camping in public places.

Instead, the region should look to organizations such as the Denver Regional Council of Governments to create a cooperative, comprehensive approach to researching and addressing the problem.

The consortium should look to places like Houston and even other nations for ways to permanently end the issue of mass homelessness. Success will come by finding ways to actually reduce the number of people who have no home and no alternative but to turn to camping in public places, not by shuffling them around.

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Zero
Zero
25 days ago

Is the Sentinel Editorial Board secretly just Juan Marcano and Allison Coombs and Crystal Murillo? This is pretty much direct quotes from those members of Council. If you’re gonna be their parrot, you could at least directly quote them, Sentinel.

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
25 days ago
Reply to  Zero

Reports often do contain quotes in one form or another. Why does this bother you?

GeneD
24 days ago
Reply to  Zero

Good ideas and thoughtful approaches come from many places. Do you agree with the editorial, or just dislike the Councilors, and therefore any idea remotely connected with them?

Polly
Polly
23 days ago
Reply to  Zero

Thank you for identifying council members, Marcano, Coombs and Murillo, who opposed the failing camping ban. They were correct with their analysis.

Avoiding Racist Harassment
Avoiding Racist Harassment
25 days ago

This editorial is fact-based and smart. This means that the conservative majority on the council will ignore it. Much like their national compadres.

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
25 days ago

In case we haven’t learned, laws do not equate to stoppage of activity. Have our laws stopped all the crime on our streets or our driving violations? So now we can toss homelessness into the mix.

There are a certain number of unhoused folks in our city, and that number will only increase. Try to legislate them away if you wish, but that simply isn’t going to happen. They are here, they will always be here, and they have to “settle” somewhere. You can just keep moving them around till hell freezes over, but at what cost? Ignorant people thought by outlawing them, they would simply “go away.” To where?

DICK MOORE
25 days ago
Reply to  Joe Felice

Aurora has already legislated the unhoused folks away, as you know Joe. Now we need the APD to daily harass them until they can’t take it anymore and then they will leave for anywhere else. Personally, I could care less where they go. Just out of Aurora. Once this happens, the City costs will minimize or just be eliminated but not go on “until hell freezes over”.

By the way, Joe, I’ve noticed the past month, you seem to have some comments on almost every article, comment and editorial. Is it that you have more time on your hands or have you had a new outlook on knowledge?

Zero
Zero
24 days ago
Reply to  DICK MOORE

Hey Dick, I’ve noticed that you comment hateful diatribes in almost every article, comment and editorial. You must have more time on your hands, because it’s clear you haven’t had a new outlook since 1922, right?

Legislation won’t have homelessness and homeless people disappear. Coffman’s unhinged and unbudgeted camping ban, which was created to trick people like you into thinking that cops can abuse people enough that they’ll stop existing, will never work and it will bankrupt this city.

DICK MOORE
24 days ago
Reply to  Zero

I try hard not to be hateful except to socialists and idiots. I’m very biased, bigoted and negatively responsive to both.

Zero, nothing in your comment do I agree with. Nothing! Zero!

Cecily K McCarthy
24 days ago
Reply to  DICK MOORE

What does it matter how often someone comments on issues they deem important or concerning to them? You’re here and commenting correct, who’s giving you a hard time about it? APD has many other issues to address, crime of all kinds especially car thefts are higher here than any other state in the nation. The main issue with having homeless people move is that they need to have a place to move to or as discovered, they just move from one place to another ad nauseum. As I stated, with the millions being spent in Aurora AND Denver, that money could and should be used to find or build facilities for these people to live permanently or semi permanently with programs to help with drug and alcohol addiction as well as mental health issues. Otherwise what we’re seeing now we’ll be seeing in the foreseeable future.

DICK MOORE
24 days ago

You are proposing a socialist plan. I do not believe it is my duty as a citizen to house anyone but my family. Self responsibility is what I believe in.

Zero
Zero
21 days ago
Reply to  DICK MOORE

Quick question, Dick – what do you define as socialist? Because you say so much that you only hate socialists, but then you go around calling EVERYBODY that you already hated socialist, so your not looking as hateless as you might think. Is “socialist” just your word for “anything I don’t like”?

Don
Don
23 days ago
Reply to  Joe Felice

Signed the guy who wants to ban a style of gun.

DICK MOORE
25 days ago

“Homeless outreach workers” in Aurora will not have jobs if we continue to harass homeless people and camps in Aurora. For their job security they must state that the homeless move to other spots in Aurora and not leave. You can believe them if you wish but I do not.

If it is true that the homeless move from space to space in Aurora then I hope the APD moves on the homeless people and camps daily. The homeless will pass the word and they will for sure move to a more compatible city or county to live and our Cities homeless problem will be solved and we will have a safer community.

Zero
Zero
24 days ago
Reply to  DICK MOORE

Hey, everybody who screams about “not in my backyard”! Take care and note that whenever you scream like that, you sound exactly like Dick Moore, this monster who openly admits he just wants the homeless to be harassed to death by the police so that he feels more important than them. Look at this example and then look in the mirror and ask yourself, “Am I being a Dick right now?” And if the answer is yes, just stop! 🌈

Factory Working Orphan
Factory Working Orphan
24 days ago
Reply to  Zero

Cry more, baby.

DICK MOORE
24 days ago
Reply to  Zero

Call me a monster and now my feelings are hurt. I won’t revert to name calling you anything but I don’t get the rainbow. Care to elaborate?

You miss so many points that I make, that you disagree with, so you can make it personal and throw your hatred my way.

NIMBY is correct. Not because it makes me feel more important than anybody but because it will make a safer Aurora.

GeneD
24 days ago
Reply to  DICK MOORE

And you’re happy to continue to pay for this for years? The police and emergency services are stretched thin already and now this is where you want them to put their focus? Denver estimates that it is costing $44,000 a year per homeless person for its approach, more than double what is spent per student for its schools.

Is this really the direction that you want, Dick? How about offering other solutions, from a conservative perspective?

DICK MOORE
24 days ago
Reply to  GeneD

Yes, this is the direction I want and I hope other Conservatives want it also. Use the Camping Ban law that we have passed. Have APD move them time and time again until the Camping Ban homeless people decide that Aurora is not the place to be. Once this happens we will have a safer community.

Denver has a camping ban law similar to Aurora. They just do not enforce it. The APD must enforce our law or the law, like in Denver, will be useless. Enforcement of our law is the Conservative answer.

Debra MacKillop
Debra MacKillop
23 days ago
Reply to  DICK MOORE

totally uninformed & incorrect & really Insulting to all the people working to help the homeless population. And quite hateful as usual.

DICK MOORE
23 days ago

I chose the safety of Aurora citizens over the homeless and the social workers, like yourself, who are not getting the job done with the homeless contingency in Aurora. The only hatred I have in my heart is for socialists and ignorance.

Jeff Brown
Jeff Brown
20 days ago
Reply to  DICK MOORE

Dick- I have a niece that’s a hard core Trump-lover and a nephew that wears his Bernie Sanders PJs to bed every night. I love them both equally and have zero respect for anyone that foments hate against either. You might ponder how many other moderates you offend with such comments. Or is it your goal to offend the undecided swing voter?

BlueBird
21 days ago

The insult is to the hardworking citizens who follow the city codes and pay taxes, fines, and fees in order to create a safe and healthy city. The homeless are not expected to follow building codes or pay for trash pickup or follow local laws about drug use.

Cecily K McCarthy
24 days ago

Anyone with any sense knew Mike Coffman’s plan would have these results. With the millions being frivolously wasted why in the world would anyone create a ban with no plan on where to have these people go once they’re made to move??? I don’t even feel safe to walk my dog in my own damn neighborhood because there are homeless people everywhere. I’ve barely missed a couple of homeless people who walk right in front of my car because they cross the street without looking. They leave their waste and their dog’s waste everywhere and God only knows what kind of germs or bacteria that creates or leaves behind. Something has to be done before it becomes too big to address and manage.

Dean
24 days ago

Ok Dave, you want to talk about the money. Fair enough.
As long as we have homeless it’s a good money maker for some of these non-profits. These jobs have turned into a pretty good paying industry. And the staff of six to 750. Sounds like a real sucess story.

https://www.westword.com/news/colorado-coalition-for-the-homeless-head-retiring-after-36-years-14262041

The Coalition has grown massively as an organization since Parvensky started there. That staff of six has grown to 750 employees, and the operating budget from $100,000 to $100 million. Parvensky currently earns around $345,000 annually for his role heading the CCH.

Zero
Zero
23 days ago
Reply to  Dean

I see your point about the nonprofit complex making money off homelessness growing and getting worse – but I think you’re missing the point here that it’s not just the nonprofit complex, Dean. It’s people who run camping bans, too – because campings bans actually prevent homeless people from stabilizing and becoming housed people, and housed people aren’t bothering you, are they? That is the post of the article – it turns out that moving people over and over again DOESN’T drive them to nonprofits or anything different at all, we’re seeing that in action in Aurora right now. And the politicians who sold you this bad idea are making millions, too – and they knew it wasnt going help the homeless OR help you from having to see homeless people. They’re spending millions and millions of taxpayer dollars, boosting their own careers, and it’s not even getting you the thing you want, right?

Because you just want to stop seeing homes people in your neighborhood, by whatever method works and costs you the least, right? Right???

Factory Working Orphan
Factory Working Orphan
23 days ago
Reply to  Zero

Cry more, baby.

Brent G Taylor
Brent G Taylor
22 days ago

A recurring theme runs through this article and these comments. The homeless are “moving” from place to place. The problem inherent with this current camping ban is what it is that’s “moving.” If you don’t own the space on which you’re living (in this case illegally camping), you cannot store possessions there. If every time we “encouraged” or obligated the people to move, we threw all their non-human stuff (illegally stored possessions and litter: IE the actual problem/visual eyesore homelessness) in a garbage truck (impounded) these wouldn’t be “moves.”