EDITORIAL: Aurora’s resurrected bogus homeless camping ban is still fatally flawed

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A homeless camp in east Aurora. Homeless camps have become more prevalent in the city and region. Mayor Mike Coffman has indicated he’ll bring back a proposed ban on homeless camping in the city, despite the measure having failed previously.
Photo by PHILIP B. POSTON/Sentinel Colorado

No one wants homeless people camping under Aurora bridges, in parks, on highway exit ramps or in town squares and medians.

No one.

But shuffling people without homes — often drowning in addiction, mental illness or catastrophic despair — from one campsite to another, over and over, does not end homeless encampments nor get homeless people off the streets.

It only makes their grim lives and the crisis of homelessness in Aurora and the region worse.

You don’t have to look far to see how homeless bans have repeatedly failed. Look anywhere in the metro area that’s tried it. Denver has a failed defective ban. Boulder, rife with people who are homeless and living behind businesses, in parks and even among tony shopping centers, are testaments to the uselessness of “banning” people from living on the streets because they have no place else to go.

Not only does shooing homeless people from one campsite to another just complicate their lives, it eats up already overtaxed police forces, courts and jails. Officials from all of those agencies have repeatedly made clear that people camping on highway medians and along creek banks is a serious community crisis, not a criminal issue.

Despite all this, Mayor Mike Coffman wants to bring back his failed homeless camping ban. City council narrowly defeated the measure about six months ago.

Coffman last week said in a tweet that he’s resurrecting the measure, even though it’s nothing more than a populist chimera.

Under Coffman’s plan, the measure would outlaw unauthorized camping by homeless people. Once identified, police would be dispatched to the encampment. Cops would then cite people there, a time-consuming and complicated feat. The lack of identification among homeless people is a notorious and complicated tragedy. Instead, police would spend a great deal of time documenting campers and their plight.

After that, homeless campers are given seven days to leave their campsite.

On the seventh day, police return and either fine the campers or arrest them, something police and local jail officials have strongly pushed back on.

And where do homeless campers go when they’re chased off? Another campsite.

These people are not criminals. They stole from no one. They injured no one. They threatened no one. They are desperately troubled, often mentally ill and absent the money or support to find their way back to even flailing poverty.

People naive to the realities of drug and alcohol addiction dismiss it, equating meth and heroin addictions to bad manners or a lack of self-discipline.

Coffman’s assurances that homeless camping will not be criminalized is actually just double-talk.

The proposed law clearly states that scofflaws face fines and jail. Coffman merely asserts that, faced with jail or summons, every homeless person will just move on to yet another park, bike trail or alley, rather than be shuffled into incarceration.

Aurora police and officials from both Adams and Arapahoe counties will tell you that’s not true, and that local jails are not equipped nor designed to be rehab centers for addicts, mental health hospitals nor social services centers to get the downtrodden back on track.

Coffman is correct, however, in saying that the bulk of these homeless people will just move on — right down the street or across town and start the endless circle of public homelessness and harassment all over again.

The biggest ruse is debate over what this measure would or wouldn’t do.

It would do nothing.

That’s because the measure can’t take effect until there are adequate shelter resources for every homeless person threatened with citation or jail.

It’s unclear exactly how many hundreds of visibly homeless people live in Aurora streets, parks, medians and parking lots. But what is certain is that even after recent modest efforts to increase shelter and sanctioned tent resources, there are far too few to meet the need. And the need is growing.

Rather than perpetuate this theater, Coffman and everyone on the Aurora City Council should work toward a regional effort to vastly increase the number of safe, clean individual and group shelters and resources needed to accommodate people who cannot pay for housing because even working full time, it’s just not feasible. The shelters have to accommodate people with drug addictions, which are not cured in a police car or jail cell.

And for those who insist that drug addicts and alcoholics are only their own problem, and not Aurora’s, constantly moving them will eventually make their addiction and homeless your problem, too. 

A regional solution must face the fact that unregulated public encampments are dangerous for the residents and the rest of the public alike. We agree with Coffman and others, it must end.

But the answer first must do something, and it must treat the issue with the pragmatism and humanity it calls for.

Shooing homeless people from one park or sidewalk to another, and eventually into jail, is far more costly in tax dollars and human misery than creating shelters and programs to end homelessness and treat addiction now. 

 

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Max Parrish
Max Parrish
3 months ago

Perry won’t be happy until Aurora is ‘agujero de mierda’.

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
3 months ago
Reply to  Max Parrish

Unlike you, he proposed a solution, in case you missed it.

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
3 months ago

It’s the Brandon way. Once entrenched, Brandon doesn’t relent. It’s the reason they elected their people to the Council, so we need to get used to it. It will only get worse as we approach autocracy.

But really, our societal systems have all failed and the whole shebang is just going to come crashing down anyway. Whatever you do, do NOT look up!

DICK MOORE
3 months ago

Thank You Mayor. Keep with your plan to make the homeless move on. There are probably a majority of Aurora citizens that want this to happen. We just don’t have a newspaper to let you know.

Debra MacKillop
Debra MacKillop
3 months ago
Reply to  DICK MOORE

Bad assumption to make Dick Moore. Truth is Coffman was incompetent and often cruel House Rep including trying to kill healthcare for thousands of Aurorans, and brought same lack of ability to govern to being mayor. Governing means have a management strategy, work to form a team and work with the Council, set priorities about issues that will help Aurorans and develop workable solutions based on facts, data, experts’ views, including in the area of homelessness. Learn about the issues and what is successful and what is constitutional – punishing homelessness is not. I’ve been to meetings with Coffman, and he hasn’t a clue about efforts across US that have been successful helping homeless become more self-sufficient (1/3 of the US homeless are vets with special needs). Coffman cares nothing about successful efforts in Denver using Housing First Model, nor is Coffman interested in actually learning anything about reasons for homelessness and how much harder pandemic made it for them. He just uses his mentor trump’s approach, which is to blame all our problems on the most vulnerable populations, which appeals to GOP voters…and keep it viral with insults and inflammatory language against a population with no voice to answer, and blame, insult, inflame, divide, and use it to distract voters while consolidating power and Koch Bros. funding.

DICK MOORE
3 months ago

I guess the bad assumption, you say, that I said was that a majority of Aurora citizens do not want homeless in our City, as that was the only assumption that I made. I stay with my assumption and personally .believe it to be true.

Mayor, please, move the homeless out of our City. Stop spending my tax dollars on the Aurora homeless and just move them out of the City.

Marie Myfanawy
Marie Myfanawy
3 months ago

I want to thank Council member Cristal Murrillo for voting against this the first time Mayor Coffman proposed it.I hope her influence will continue to motivate the Aurora City Council to vote no. We have to invest in many faceted solutions to the travesty of housing costs in Aurora, low wages and the dearth of effective interventions. Thank you for your editorial opinion. Have you considered running for Mayor?

DICK MOORE
3 months ago
Reply to  Marie Myfanawy

Hey Marie, don’t see how the Sentinel Editorial Board could run for Mayor. Just saying.

I am glad to report to you that no one on City Council has less influence with the others than the child politician from Ward I.

The good news for you is that there will be at least four votes for the homeless when it comes up, maybe five depending on how Angela votes.

GeneD
3 months ago

More than 50 years ago The Band sang:
‘I just spent 60 days in the jailhouse for the crime of having no dough.
Now here I am back out on the street for the crime of having nowhere to go.’

About time to try something different and long-term?

The editorial is right that a regional approach and solution is required, and its core should not be criminalizing homelessness.

Debra MacKillop
Debra MacKillop
3 months ago

Truth is Coffman was incompetent and often cruel House Rep including trying to kill healthcare for thousands of Aurorans, and brought same lack of ability to govern to being mayor. Governing means have a management strategy, work to form a team and work with the Council, set priorities about issues that will help Aurorans and develop workable solutions based on facts, data, experts’ views, including in the area of homelessness. Learn about the issues and what is successful and what is constitutional – punishing homelessness is not. I’ve been to meetings with Coffman, and he hasn’t a clue about efforts across US that have been successful helping homeless become more self-sufficient (1/3 of the US homeless are vets with special needs). Coffman cares nothing about successful efforts in Denver using Housing First Model, nor is Coffman interested in actually learning anything about reasons for homelessness and how much harder pandemic made it for them. He just uses his mentor trump’s approach, which is to blame all our problems on the most vulnerable populations, which appeals to GOP voters…and keep it viral with insults and inflammatory language against a population with no voice to answer, and blame, insult, inflame, divide, and use it to distract voters while consolidating power and Koch Bros. funding.

Kelly White
Kelly White
3 months ago

Get the homeless off the streets and into confined services

GeneD
3 months ago
Reply to  Kelly White

Could we concentrate them into camps? I think that was tried about 80 years ago, with bad results.

Denise Denton
Denise Denton
3 months ago

I just visited the moving exhibit on homelessness at the Aurora History Museum. It was a timely reminder of the PEOPLE who make up our “homeless.” There are many reasons someone becomes homeless. And there many different needs that must be met to solve the problem. I wish I had AN easy answer. But listening to each story is a start.