AURORA | Aurora officials on Wednesday are set to gauge public appetite for possible tiny homes, city-sanctioned public camping sites and shower trailers that could soon be made available to homeless residents in the city.
The open house designed to showcase possible sheltering options for homeless Aurorans is scheduled one day before Mayor Mike Coffman is expected to introduce an ordinance that could outlaw camping in the state’s third-largest municipality.
The event is open to the public from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. May 19 at the Restoration Christian Fellowship at 15660 E. Sixth Ave.
City staffers will field questions about a variety of possible dwellings that could be placed throughout the city, including pallet and tiny homes, safe parking and camping sites, and a shower and bathroom trailer designed by Florida-based benefit corporation Clean the World.
The designs will remain on display for the public to peruse at the East Sixth Avenue church through May 27. Residents will be able to submit their feedback on the options online through the end of the month.
The town hall comes about two months after city staffers announced plans to phase out a temporary shelter in a north Aurora warehouse and establish a sanctioned campsite in the city.
Coffman has spurred continued debate on how to address homelessness in the city in recent months, particularly after he posed as a homeless person for a television special earlier this year.
In a statement posted to his Twitter page last week, Coffman said he supports providing temporary shelter to Aurora residents who meet certain stipulations.
“In my view, the reality is that the more services you provide the homeless, without any requirements placed on the change in their behaviors, the more homelessness you will get,” he wrote. “I support providing temporary shelter with the understanding that able-bodied individuals experiencing homelessness must participate in treatment programs to get sober and job training programs until they get (sic) find work. Taxpaying adults, who get up every morning to go to work, should not be forced to support individuals who have no intention of ever getting up in the morning to go to work and share in the adult responsibilities of life. In my view, being compassionate also means not enabling their destructive behaviors.”
Councilperson Nicole Johnston rebutted Coffman’s statements in a letter published in The Sentinel, saying his comments were based on “political rhetoric.”
“He continued with misinformed generalizations as if he is the expert in this area,” she said. “He is not.”
Johnston and Coffman publicly locked horns at a council study session Monday night when Johnston scolded the Republican mayor for introducing potentially bellwether city policy via social media. Coffman responded by alluding to Johnston’s impending departure from city council to be closer to family in Colorado Springs.
“Every member here, including myself as mayor, has the ability to put policy questions forward, and you have the ability to vote them down, although you probably will not be here when the issue comes up. You’ll be a resident of Colorado Springs,” Coffman told Johnston, who recently announced her resignation.
Other Democratic members of council also voiced their displeasure with Coffman’s recent announcement.
“You already know that camping bans are costly, ineffective, and a waste of law enforcement’s time. Denver wastes millions a year moving people around and accomplishing absolutely nothing,” Councilmember Juan Marcano said in a tweet. “You have professional staff that have other data-driven recommendations. Listen to them.”
There are currently about 150 shelter beds available in Aurora at any given time, according to Cristal Dukes, spokesperson for the City of Aurora.
Housing advocates estimated there were about 400 people experiencing homelessness in Aurora last year, according to a recent point-in-time survey. Such reports are often believed to be underestimates of the overall homeless population.
A longstanding camping ban in Denver has been at the center of litigation for nearly a decade, though a judge in September ruled that the policy is permitted.
Coffman has said he is consulting with the city attorney’s office to ensure his forthcoming proposal could withstand additional legal challenges and compiles with current federal health guidelines.
It’s unclear exactly when Coffman may float his proposal Thursday, though it may be presented at a city policy committee tomorrow morning.