JUAN MARCANO: Mayor Coffman’s camping ban is about political power, not addressing homelessness

Homelessness has been a long-standing problem in Aurora and the Denver metro area.  We were one of the first jurisdictions in the state to allocate cannabis tax proceeds toward homelessness in 2016 to support several nonprofit community services, all of whom do excellent work, to manage the issue of homelessness in our city.

These important services have kept many Aurorans from becoming homeless, have kept Aurorans who find themselves without shelter warm in the winter, have fed unhoused Aurorans when they are hungry, and have even helped some Aurorans attain housing after losing it.

What we didn’t do at the time was dedicate resources towards solving the problem at the scale necessary to keep our unhoused population from growing year after year, as evidenced by the number of unhoused folks we see daily throughout our city. We need to address the problem at the root while ensuring we have a full continuum of care to get folks from the streets back to sustainable housing.

We know the leading causes of homelessness are rising rents, unexpected job loss, poverty, and stagnant wages.  Substance abuse is a smaller part of the overall problem.  A recent survey of people experiencing chronic homelessness from the Englewood, Sheridan, and Littleton corroborates this national-level data.

The formula for solving chronic homelessness is simple — provide housing and wrap-around services at a faster rate than the unhoused population can grow.  This approach will allow us to catch up with the unhoused population we currently have and ensure we stay ahead of its growth.

The real challenge is getting the political will to commit to scaling up to solve the problem.

Safe outdoor camping spaces and other temporary sheltering solutions are the first step toward closing the shelter deficit for our unhoused population, but the housing deficit will take longer as it requires much larger upfront capital investment and inter-jurisdictional partnerships. These housing solutions should use both the housing-first framework (best represented in Aurora by Providence at the Heights) and the work-first framework (best represented in Aurora by Bridge House’s Ready to Work program).  From Denver to Helsinki, we know this approach works, we need to support these efforts at the scale necessary to reduce the chronically homeless population to zero.

What we know doesn’t work are “camping bans” and other attempts to criminalize homelessness.  Anyone who has visited Denver over the past 9 years can see for themselves just how ineffective this policy is.  Mayor Mike Coffman also knows that camping bans do not work.  He has admitted on a radio show that he knows this.  So, the question then is why is he pushing this failed policy?  Well, he’s answered that for us already.

Mayor Coffman also admitted on conservative talk radio that he is using homelessness as a wedge issue for the purposes of helping elect a conservative majority to the dais of our diverse, progressive city.  In short, he’s selling Aurorans desperate political power play instead of working together with city staff and council to solve the problem.

Aurorans: you deserve so much better than cynical ploys such as this “ban.” Rather than playing whack-a-mole with camps indefinitely, I am asking you to demand evidence-based public policy from your city government that will move people out of homelessness and into housing.

Juan Marcano is the Ward IV representative on the Aurora City Council. Reach him at

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Jeff Brown
Jeff Brown
1 month ago

CM Marcano- Respectfully, when the City of Aurora is largely dependent on sales tax for pretty much everything it does, and when the city’s retail economy measured per capita sputters 14% below the Colorado average and 59% below that of Denver, and when the city is already well over $20 million behind on street maintenance, where do you intend to find the financial resources to tackle homelessness in the manner you feel is appropriate?

Had Aurora’s retail economy merely hit average in 2019, the city would have collected $28 million in additional sales tax. Had it hit the 4th quartile, the city would have collected an additional $98 million. But it didn’t and this city council continues to ignore the opportunity to strengthen its primary source of revenue. As such, the ten of you are collectively failing your constituents. Show me the strategy to mitigate the exodus of shoppers, diners and ticket-buyers.

And before you respond with a better alternative to sales tax, remember that the numbers don’t lie. It would take a 75% increase to the property tax rate to close the $28 million gap in sales tax. Boosting the retail tax base is the only viable solution politically– if you indeed actually want to fix anything.

Juan Marcano
Juan Marcano
1 month ago
Reply to  Jeff Brown

Jeff,

We have an opportunity to address homelessness in partnership with our counties and neighboring jurisdictions by pooling some of our one-time federal recovery funds and putting them to work acquiring land, standing up temporary shelter options, and building permanent housing. The goal should be to over time divert our ongoing cannabis revenue away from simply managing the problem and towards maintaining the solutions built with this one-time federal money. The regional partnership is key to making this succeed, but I feel confident that policymakers are feeling the heat throughout the metro from their constituents to actually collaborate on this effort.

Also, I’m with you on the need for a major draw to the city. We are long overdue for a performing arts center. Check out what the Palladium did for Carmel, IN’s city center. This is something we’re discussing with staff as well.

DICK MOORE
1 month ago
Reply to  Juan Marcano

Seems like the “regional partnership” has spoken. Five major cities in the region have outlawed camping on public and private land in each of their respective cities. There is the heat from their constituents. For a politician, you don’t seem to “get what makes things happen”.

Avoiding Racial Harassment
Avoiding Racial Harassment
1 month ago

No lies told. Thank you.

Doug King
Doug King
1 month ago

HERE! HERE! Let’s work together on it and quit complaining and criticizing! for the sake of criticizing!

Doug King
Doug King
1 month ago

“No lies told. Thank you.” sorry…what does that mean?

None
None
1 month ago

Juan please post your address so they can come to your yard

Dennis Duffy
Dennis Duffy
1 month ago

If Coffman is posturing then so are you. Your opinion counts as much as his but opinions don’t fix problems.
I think there should be a safe place for the homeless located in each of our city wards. You,Juan,would be in charge if the encampment in your ward. This allows the entire city to share the burden, nay, the obligation to care for our citizens.
Do something!!!

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
1 month ago

Correct.

We are now in the age of power grab by conservatives. Everything will be towards that end.

Yes, you can sit down and be quiet now.

DICK MOORE
1 month ago

Citizens of Ward IV, realize that you have voted in Juan Marcano and that he is a dedicated socialist. A socialist wants government to provide all its citizens basically everything they may need to exist, including housing, and then figure out a way to pay for it. Marcano says he doesn’t know how to pay for it.

Marcano states in his argument the only way to actually solve our homelessness problem is to give them free housing. He realizes this can’t be done with limited funds that Aurora has but that is what is required to end the problem.

I’m afraid Marcano lives and thinks in his own World. Can’t see that Aurora should be the center of his make believe World. Understand that the Mayor understands his stances and Marcano does everything he can do to discredit our Mayor.

I don’t see how we solve the homeless situation but I see a fairly easy way to move them on to somewhere else who really want to care for them.

I used to live in Ward IV in Village East. I can’t believe the citizens of Ward IV knew the type of leader that they voted into office. I don’t see them voting him in again. He has no leadership qualities.

At Council meetings, each time before Marcano speaks, he always says, “Thank you, Mayor.”

Do you believe that he really means that? I didn’t think so.