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Aurora mayor cranks up misery for homeless

Posted by 
David Heitz
David Heitz
 27 days ago
Matt Collamer/Unsplash

Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman is cranking up the misery for people experiencing homelessness.

In a series of Tweets earlier this week, he unveiled his plans for a camping ban throughout the city. Such a ban has become a public relations nightmare for Denver Mayor Michael Hancock.

What camping bans essentially do is make it illegal for a homeless person to exist. Under Denver’s camping ban, if you cover with a blanket anywhere in the city, you’re camping. I was approached by police for sleeping on a bluff next to the river, covered with a blanket. I was taken to jail.

I only bring it up because homeless people do get arrested for camping, ludicrous as it may sound. It costs taxpayers millions to jail people who simply needed a place to rest.

Mentally ill people need housing first

Here’s my point of view as someone who has rebounded from homelessness and is doing well now. People who are homeless due to untreated mental illness, like I was, have no chance of getting better without housing first.

Homelessness is chaos. Keeping or getting medical appointments when you’re living on the street can feel impossible. Most homeless people simply try to survive hour by hour, deprived of sleep and hungry from walking all the time.

You have no idea what may come along your path during a typical day. You might have a knife pulled on you in a food line. You might have a cop run you off from a peaceful spot along the river. Most homeless people do not have a cell phone and have no idea what time it is.

Mayor Coffman claims he knows all about homelessness. That’s because he went undercover as a homeless person for a week. Other public officials dubbed the mayor’s actions a publicity stunt. Some said it was cruel and insulting to people experiencing homelessness.

According to Coffman, able-bodied homeless people were not willing to get sober. There’s not much that can be done for them, he told KUSA 9 News.

He said some made a “lifestyle choice” and homelessness is a part of “drug culture.”

Want to stay in a shelter? Now get out

In a series of Tweets, Coffman laid out his plans Thursday for a camping ordinance.

Coffman highlighted a section of his proposed ordinance regarding notice. “The outreach team shall visit an unauthorized camp as soon as possible after the initial notification of the unauthorized camp. The outreach team shall contact every occupant of the camp, offer placement in a shelter space, offer services to the occupants, encourage the occupants to seek assistance and advise the occupants they need to immediately move and take their property with them.”

The occupants of the camps likely will move a block or two away and set up new encampments. The city has not been clear about whether a sanctioned campsite will open in Aurora or when.

Many people do not want to stay in shelters because they have a dog or significant other. They don’t want to be separated from who and what is important to them. There is no storage for your belongings in homeless shelters.

Denver’s camping ban challenged in court

A legal challenge to Denver’s camping ordinance resulted in a judge ordering the city to give a few days notice to campers before the dwellings are bulldozed.

Angry Tweeters sniped back at Coffman Thursday. Said Kerri Peek de los Luceros, “Why are you like this? You don't listen to anyone. I told you I was a homeless vet for five years and I don't even drink and certainly don't (use) drugs (I can back that up, V.A. gives me regular UAs for my pain meds for years) why don't you ask me what's up on the streets?”

Alex Davis asked the obvious question: Where are campers going to go when police run them off? “What budget changes are you introducing to make sure these people have a place to live? Do you have some open rooms in your house?”

A Tweeter with the handle “Eodem” defended Coffman. “We are receiving $75 million from feds to take care of the homeless. Camping ban must be in place so those who are experiencing homelessness will take Aurora up on the tiny home and rehabilitation programs. If not, our waterways will continue to be filled with trash.”

There are no current plans to make tiny homes available to every person experiencing homelessness in Aurora.

Several members of the Aurora City Council do not support the mayor’s plan. It is unclear whether such a measure will survive a council vote.

One thing is certain: Being told you can't be anywhere doesn't feel very good.

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