EDITORIAL: Aurora’s looming homeless camping ban is built to fail, persecuting indigents

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Bob Dorshimer, front, Erin Kay, middle, and Mikhail Smith, check on a homeless person at a large camp in Aurora, April 21. Kay and Smith are on the Street Outreach Team for Mile High Behavioral Health and Dorshimer is the CEO of MHBHC.
Photo by PHILIP B. POSTON/Sentinel Colorado

The best scenario Aurora faces as its new-and-improved homeless camping ban rolls out is that not too many people will be maimed or killed.

Even indifferent Aurora residents with homes can only hope that as the nascent Aurora camping ban gains momentum, if it ever does, that displaced campers don’t find new places to live covertly in nearby alleys, bike paths and parking lots.

That’s absolutely what’s going to happen.

Decade after decade, in city after city, the proof is undeniable that “banning” homeless campers has not, does not and will not move compelling numbers of drug addicts into treatment nor homeless people into places of their own. It only shuffles them around.

There is no credible proof otherwise. None.

Despite this consistent advice from experts in this city, in this region and from across the nation, a razor-thin majority of city council members insist on moving ahead with a ban that at best will do nothing and most likely will result in people being injured and killed.

The reason so many homeless people camp together and in prominent places is so they do not die. The reason why it’s so prominent is because there is a crisis of so many homeless people forced to live in tents, or die from exposure.

Homeless people are frequently victims of robbery, muggings, assaults, rape and murder. They frequently suffer from myriad physical and mental maladies. Many of them are drug and alcohol addicts.

As humans have known for eons, however, there is safety in numbers.

“The reason why people want to be in public sleeping together is it’s safe,” Tony Robinson, a researcher and associate professor of political science at CU Denver told The Sentinel in a story this week by reporter Max Levy. “If you allow people to be harassed and raped and murdered in the shadows, you can pretend you don’t have a problem. That’s what it sounds like Aurora is planning to do.”

It’s happened in Denver and across the country, and it will happen here.

Despite that, Aurora is preparing to push ahead with its ill-advised ban, but it’s certainly not prepared.

For weeks, The Sentinel has pressed the city for details about how the ban will be implemented, information city lawmakers should have considered before they created a new law.

While the ban makes clear that someone, most likely police, will hand out notices to homeless campers to vacate within 72 hours, the most important details are still a mystery.

Critical details are missing, such as:

• Who decides which, among dozens of large and even more small encampments, gets the boot first and in what order? Using what criteria?

• Who among the reluctant police rank and file is burdened with notifying people who have nothing that they have to move on or face arrest, jail and fines? Special units among the already short-staffed police? Shift district cops? Many of these encampments are vacant during daylight as residents work, forage for food or drugs or just look for respite from their perilous, bleak lives? Do police just tape eviction notices to tents? Coolers? Roll up at 2 a.m. with large squads?

• Who decides what the “official” shelter space count is, which is what permits police to roust homeless campers. There must be shelter space available to invoke eviction, according to the new law. It’s unclear what even constitutes shelter space, whether it’s a designated place to pitch a tent, a chalk outline in a parking lot for sleeping bag or a tiny home miles from where campers are when they’re evicted. Will those evicted have reservations? How long do they have to show up, and will others be turned away while a space is held?

• If there are only three shelter spaces officially available, can the police evict a camp with seven residents, or can four stay? Who gets the boot and who decides?

• What will the city and police do if they evict a handful of campers from a city parking lot on one side of Colfax and they walk across the street and set up camp on the other side of Colfax? Does the process start all over? How far do campers have to move to “comply” with the eviction law? To the other side of a park? A few hundred feet down a bike trail? A mile? If someone is ousted from an I-225 underpass and someone new moves in that same day, where will the new residents be on the list of encampments scheduled for “sweeping,” or does the process start over?

• How will the city track what happens to homeless people they chase off, including how many take advantage of shelter space, and how many don’t?

The Sentinel isn’t the only one anxious for answers. Rest assured there are hundreds of homeless campers in the city eager to find out how to live with and get around Aurora’s ban to nowhere.

The city absolutely cannot condone people camping along highways and in public parks — for everyone’s safety. Instead, Aurora must recognize this as the humanitarian crisis it is. We have an obligation as a society to offer people at the very least a safe, protected, hygienic place to live and help to find permanent homes, health and employment.

Aurora’s so-called camping ban is the antithesis of a wise, logical and compassionate solution to a growing national crisis.

Because endless experts have made that perfectly clear, it makes the persistence of those who back this ill-conceived scourge as vulgar and cruel as the ban itself.

“I understand why people would want a camping ban. I like my city, and I want it to look pretty. But this is a human rights issue,” Scott Harpin, associate professor of nursing at Anschutz who has worked with homeless populations for about 25 years, told reporter Max Levy of The Sentinel. “It just moves people around. It doesn’t help solve the issue in any way.”

It’s not too late to suspend this ill-conceived measure and work to get it right for everyone in the community, including those who live here without a home.

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DICK MOORE
3 months ago

Your editorial, your opinion.

My opinion is we will be making Aurora a safer place by moving the homeless to a different city. If they move to another part of our City, move them again. Soon, the homeless, themselves will pass the word to other homeless that Aurora is not the place to be.

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
3 months ago
Reply to  DICK MOORE

Your comment, your opinion. And aren’t you the compassionate one?

DICK MOORE
3 months ago
Reply to  Joe Felice

No, Joe, I am not compassionate to the homeless population in Aurora, nor anywhere else.

I am compassionate about those citizens of Aurora who have self responsibility about their lives and who do not take heroin nor meth, who are not thieves, rapists and criminals and those that know how and try to use the “system” when they are down and out in an attempt to better themselves.

What I’m passionate about is making Aurora a safe city. Homeless people can only make Aurora less safe. Move them out.

DICK MOORE
3 months ago
Reply to  Joe Felice

Hey, Joe, I replied to your reply but, alas it was censored. It basically said that I’m not compassionate to homeless but in more detail.

Brent G Taylor
Brent G Taylor
3 months ago

“The city absolutely cannot condone people camping along highways and in public parks — for everyone’s safety.” That’s the point. And in Aurora you don’t allow it… because it’s against the law. Pretty straight forward. This nonsense about 72 hours shouldn’t be part of this law. You send out whomever (yes police, and a dump truck) and pick the worst eye sores in whatever time you allot for doing it. You put all their crap in the dump truck and haul it the the landfill. You can even empty it in a flagged, designated spot in the landfill. You do this ONCE and word gets out… you’re going lose your stuff… Aurora is not a place to be homeless and camping in public spaces or without permission on private property.

The humanitarian angle for this comes from PRIVATE individuals, churches, agencies… not government.

Why is this so hard? You can’t stand at the exit to I225 and Mississippi urinating in the gutter (or apparently privately in a Zamboni drain). I can’t take my trash to some random corner or bush along Parker Road and leave it. I can’t, just for fun, camp up the street in the city park… even one night.

And please!!! ban panhandling! Who uses cash anyway (statistically of the folks they’re begging from) in this electronic age? It’s dangerous. It’s annoying. It’s pointless.

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
3 months ago
Reply to  Brent G Taylor

Another compassionate person chimes in. Not!

Brent G Taylor
Brent G Taylor
3 months ago
Reply to  Joe Felice

You obviously skipped reading my stand alone sentence/paragraph “the humanitarian angle for this comes from PRIVATE individuals, churches, agencies… not government.”

James A McKeeman
James A McKeeman
3 months ago
Reply to  Brent G Taylor

By “their crap” do you mean their sleeping bag to keep them warm, Clothes to prevent nakedness, cookware to provide meals, their tent to shelter them from the elements?. That is not Crap. That is their home. Your complete lack of compassion is deplorable, but not unexpected. Brent, don’t forget to take the last bauble, bangle and bead from Who Ville and spank Cindy Lou Who for getting out of bed this coming Christmas.

Gened
Gened
3 months ago

Are any Christians reading this? What would Jesus do? Do that.

Factory Working Orphan
Factory Working Orphan
3 months ago
Reply to  Gened

“You should totally let homeless people camp wherever they want because it says to be compassionate in the Bible somewhere.
No, I’m not a Christian and have nothing but contempt for your backwards beliefs.
So this argument wouldn’t work on me, but maybe if I use it on you, you’ll do what I want.”

Brent G Taylor
Brent G Taylor
3 months ago
Reply to  Gened

Yes, what would Jesus do? Would he compel government, one by the way that’s separate from church with a significant portion of its population not aligned with Christianity, to assist? He did not in Palestine; and would not today in Aurora.

GreenLantern
3 months ago

Again, (r)s solution to every problem is “make felons out of the downtrodden”. It seems as if no one wants a real solution to the homeless problem. Perhaps interviewing as many homeless as possible, and finding out as much as they can about why these people are homeless. There are probably about as many reasons as people but I think the big ones would be, debt foreclosed on them and jobs just do not pay enough to keep them off the streets, unfortunate illness or injury bankrupted them and prevents them from working good enough jobs, drug addiction, mental illness, and many others. THEN, put together programs that will help the people that will accept help, job programs, education programs, mental health help, drug addiction help and other “root problem” solutions.
Get better pay for people, better jobs and businesses for those that want them, get affordable housing out there. (Yes, and regulating unfettered “winner take all” “capitalism” will be necessary) Get these people ACTUAL help, instead of making them felons, many for unfortunate circumstances, and then finally you can spend resources on the hard core homeless.
But never mind, just criticizing and arresting and making more and more and more of them is a “great” idea…

DICK MOORE
3 months ago

I sure don’t understand your censorship. I know I have a comment below/above but I comment when someone comments on my comment. That seems to often be censored.

I understand that Dave and your staff do not see facts in the same manner as I do but you seem to use your eraser on my comments more and more. I can’t believe it’s just me that you are censoring and it’s wrong on your part.

If this doesn’t get censored, I would hope that others censored would speak up in these comments so we can figure out if this is a Sentinel rarity or commonality. At this time it is not on my agenda to be silenced.

DICK MOORE
3 months ago

Interesting how my comments don’t show up for some time after I make them. Then I complain and they show up. Citizens, there is something amuck here. I’d really like the Sentinel to explain, in an article their censorship policies and timing of those policies.

Tawny Fox
Tawny Fox
3 months ago

“Just let ’em die” is the policy that some of these lawmakers and commenters really want. It is truly one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever heard. As long as people experiencing homelessness disappear from their sight, they can die – who cares, right? GROSS. Just look at the comments of Dick Moore in this comment section or listen to the alt-right city council members to confirm.

But Dick Moore and all the other Dicks (and Janes) out there – you don’t care about the lives of folks who are experiencing harder times than you (and I promise you, you are WAY closer to their plight than you think), don’t you at least care about your almighty god, the dollar bill?

It would be cheaper to safely house these people than it’s going to cost to roust them. Why not save the city some money and save some lives, all at the same time? Because your need to feel superior to someone to make yourself feel better about your utter lack of empathy and compassion is more important.

Again, GROSS.

DICK MOORE
3 months ago
Reply to  Tawny Fox

Well, Tawny Fox, nice name. Before I start, I’d be remiss to mention that your Dick joke was not very good and I’ve had intelligent people do much better and I’ve heard most of them especially in the Army while I was protecting your Tawny self, in Viet Nam from communism and socialism.

No one said anything about “Just let them die” until you did.

I just reread your comments and find that I can add nothing that I said before in these comments. I get you think I’m GROSS, but all you really know about me is that I have no compassion for homeless. All I know about you is that you think poorly of me, have a made up name, you’re religious and don’t speak like a deeply religious person. In summary, Tawny, you can do better.