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Aurora plans to accelerate homeless camp sweeps as part of 'tough love' approach

Currently, disbanding camps in the City of Aurora requires a 72-hour notice. Under a proposed ordinance, the city would not have to notify encampment residents ahead of a sweep.
Aurora homeless tent
Posted at 10:22 PM, May 15, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-16 00:22:33-04

AURORA, Colo. — The City of Aurora is taking steps to accelerate encampment sweeps as part of its "tough love" approach to address homelessness.

“Policy is better than doing nothing, but not working as well as it should,” said Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman.

The city is considering a new camping ordinance that would allow officials to sweep a homeless encampment without notice. Under the current ordinance, the city must provide a 72-hour notice to those living in the camp.

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According to the proposed ordinance, the city could sweep an encampment if it is in a location that was cleared in the past six months. Other criteria include if someone died or was seriously injured due to the camp's conditions, past or present criminal activity, and fires resulting in a response by firefighters.

“We want people to receive help, accept it. But we can't allow you to do whatever you want to do, especially if that's breaking the law,” said Aurora City Councilmember Steve Sundberg.

Homeless advocates, like Cathy Alderman with the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, think this change is the wrong call.

“People need that notice in order to collect their belongings and find another place to go,” said Alderman.

Coffman said it’s a "tough love" approach that Aurora’s leadership is committed to.

“We’re going to have a policy that is fair to the taxpayers and compassionate to those experiencing unsheltered homelessness,” he said.

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The city is already considering an ordinance that would ban camping along the Interstate 225 corridor.

That proposal, put forward by Sundberg, would place the entire corridor under a new trespass ordinance, meaning people caught camping would be ticketed and given a date to appear in court. Those who miss their court date would be subject to arrest for failure to appear.

Camping along the I-225 corridor is currently illegal. However, under the current ordinance, violators are given a 72-hour notice to move. As long as they vacate the premises, there are no penalties, according to Coffman.

Aurora is also considering a second proposal that would create a specialized court — called the H.E.A.R.T. Court (Housing, Employment, Addiction, Recovery, and Teamwork) — that would handle low-level offenses by individuals who are experiencing homelessness. Offenses would include violating a trespass ordinance, illegal drug possession or retail theft.

City officials estimate that the first year of the H.E.A.R.T Court could cost roughly $220,000.

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