Aurora, CO

Aurora mayor seeks homeless encampment solutions in Colorado Springs

David Heitz
Photo byCity of Aurora

By David Heitz / NewsBreak Denver

(Aurora, Colo.) Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman again visited Colorado Springs last week for ideas on clearing homeless encampments.

Aurora would like to build a homeless campus but is waiting on funding from the state. Coffman and others on the Aurora City Council have said they would like to model a new homeless facility after the Colorado Springs Rescue Mission.

“In Colorado Springs, every homeless person who is in violation of their camping ban is required to show some form of identification, the police officers check their onboard computer to see if there are any outstanding warrants and can be arrested immediately if they do,” Coffman posted on his Facebook page. “If they don't have a legitimate form of identification, they have to submit to having their fingerprints scanned and uploaded into the system to see if they have any active warrants.”

Many people experiencing homelessness lose their IDs after contact with police or paramedics, according to advocates.

Coffman rode along Wednesday with Colorado Springs Police’s homelessness outreach team. “In the first stop this morning, there was an arrest of an individual who would neither share his name nor give any identification,” Coffman posed on Facebook. “He was arrested and then forced to have his fingerprints scanned and he was found to h, ave an outstanding felony warrant.”

Coffman said police told him there are 75 people experiencing homelessness in Colorado Springs that have warrants for their arrest.

Cleaning up CDOT property

Colorado Springs also moves quicker than Aurora to clean up encampments on Colorado Department of Transportation property, Coffman explained. “In Colorado Springs I-25 runs through the city and under their agreement with CDOT, they can give an immediate notice to vacate and give the homeless one hour to leave. On the first offense, they receive a warning but on the second offense they receive a ticket with a court date. In Aurora, we have I-225 run through our city and when someone is illegally camping on CDOT property we give them a 72-hour notice with no tickets given no matter how many times they've violated the law.”

Colorado Springs has a “low tolerance” for urban campers, Coffman wrote in his post. The city has a 13-member in-house crew that cleans up the encampments, whereas Aurora contracts out for the sweeps with Keesen. “While Colorado Springs does not require law enforcement officers to be present during the abatements unless specifically called in case of a problem, the city of Aurora requires two police officers to be present at all times during abatements tying up valuable law enforcement resources.”
Photo byCity of Aurora

Coffman said he plans to set up a virtual meeting between Aurora city staffers and those in Colorado Springs “to review our differences and to see what changes that we could make, from their experience, that would improve our situation.”

Colorado Springs’ conservative majority

Like Aurora, Colorado Springs is run by a conservative majority. “As you can imagine, we are hearing from advocates for the homeless who believe the city should be doing more to assist this population, and who display sympathy for those affected by homelessness,” according to Colorado Springs' homelessness information page. “They are concerned that some in our community have no place to live, can’t find housing or jobs, don’t have a place to go the bathroom, take a shower, dump their garbage, or get mental health or substance abuse help. They are concerned that some in our community work or have housing vouchers but still can’t find a place to live. We appreciate and recognize this view.”

But the city also expresses sympathy for residents affected by the encampments. “We are also hearing from those in our community who are upset about trash, safety of our parks, camping on public property, illegal fires, and crime in their neighborhoods. Many of these individuals feel that the city, the county, the faith community, and the homeless agencies do too much enabling and that many people abuse the system. These are also valid concerns. Finding the balance in providing services to those experiencing homelessness while respecting the needs and concerns of all residents remains the city’s priority.”

Police: Most encampment dwellers have drug problem

Coffman said Aurora police told him most people in homeless encampments have a drug problem. “I asked Sgt. Olav Chaney what percentage of unsheltered homelessness he estimates to be drug related and what percentage is mental illness. His response was that around 90% is drug related with mental health issues while only 10% is purely due to mental illness. I believe that we need to do everything we can to get our unsheltered homeless off of the street and into treatment, job training and employment.”

Coffman said Colorado Springs returns stolen shopping carts to merchants. “Another difference that I saw during my ride-along yesterday was that their city's cleanup crews, that work closely with the Homeless Outreach Team, take all of the stolen shopping carts away from the homeless and put them in a central location where the respective retail outlets can reclaim them.” Denver has found rounding up the carts to be problematic.

The Colorado Springs Rescue Mission is set up in such a way that those who work or receive substance abuse treatment get better accommodations. Coffman would like to create a similar homeless center in Aurora. “I was very impressed with all that they are doing to get their homeless off of the streets and how the Colorado Springs Rescue Mission has been such a great partner for their city,” Coffman said in an email to NewsBreak.

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I've been in the news business 35 years, spending much of my career in editing roles at community newspapers in Southern California and the Quad-Cities of Illinois and Iowa. Upon moving to Denver in 2018, I began experiencing severe mental illness due to several traumatic experiences. I became homeless on the street for about a year before spending time in the state mental hospital. I am proof that people can rebound from even severe mental illness with proper treatment. I consider myself a lucky guy to live in a great place like Denver. I hope my writing reflects the passion I have for living in the Mile High City. You can email me news releases and story ideas at

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