Mar 1, 2022 - News

Aurora poised to pass controversial homeless camping ban

Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman in 2020. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Aurora City Council is poised to approve Republican Mayor Mike Coffman's controversial proposal to outlaw urban camping, which is aimed at people experiencing homelessness.

  • After a heated, hours-long debate Monday night, most council members signaled support for the policy. The handful in opposition plan to make minor amendments before final approval is expected as soon as later this month.

Why it matters: The looming crackdown comes after the council’s shift to the right. Its former, more left-leaning members had blocked the plan.

The big picture: The effort follows liimited proof of success in Denver — where the homeless population has increased despite the city's decade-old and embattled camping ban.

  • Meanwhile, results have yet to be released from Denver's auditor, who is conducting a first-ever evaluation to determine the impacts of the city’s management of homeless encampments, including cleanup costs and repercussions for the community.

Details: The Aurora ordinance, sponsored by Coffman, means campers could be arrested or face up to $2,650 fines for failing to leave a campsite within 72 hours, after the notice period is up.

  • A companion measure also directs the city manager to "look for, create and maintain sufficient shelter options to provide a safe space for individuals and families in an unauthorized camp that desire to use a shelter option."

Yes, but: Aurora officials lack shelter options for every homeless person in the city, assistant city attorney Tim Joyce, who wrote the legislation, told council members Monday night.

The other side: The mayor's move is a political ploy meant to push Aurora's most vulnerable residents outside city limits, homeless service providers tell Axios. Sweeping the unhoused also makes it harder for service providers to find and help those in need, they say.

  • "This is a terrible idea. It's unproductive … and we question some of the things that have been said about trying to find people safe places to go, because none of those places have been identified," Cathy Alderman, spokesperson for the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, tells Axios Denver.

Context: Coffman's proposal was put on pause for six months after failing to pass due to a tied vote last August.

What to watch: Homeless service providers warn Aurora's proposed measure may shuffle the city's problem to surrounding suburbs, whose local leaders could pass similar camping bans as part of a "fear tactic route," Alderman says.

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