A resurrected proposal to ban urban camping in Aurora got its first stamp of approval by the city council just before midnight Monday, but not before dozens of people weighed in during the nearly four-hour hearing.
The city is headed toward joining several other Colorado cities in enacting such bans, including Denver, with the ordinance seeking to ban urban camping to “promote aesthetics, sanitation, public health, and safety for individuals in an unauthorized camp and the citizens of the City.”
Council members will vote at least one more time — two if substantive changes are passed — before the law can be enacted, but the successful vote Monday indicates enough support for the ban to become law early this year.
A previous effort by Mayor Mike Coffman to pass a ban failed in August in a tie 5-5 vote, but with the election of new conservative members, the body voted 6-5 (with the mayor casting the deciding vote to break a tie) in favor of the proposed ordinance that would set regulations for removing unauthorized camping on public or private property. Police could remove homeless encampments after city officials give campers at least 72-hours notice to move themselves and their belongings — with some exceptions — or face citations or arrest. The city would also have to make sure shelter space is available for the individual or people in an encampment before requiring them to move.
The meeting led to regularly heated exchanges and shouting from the audience, admonishments to the crowd by the mayor pro tem Francoise Bergan, and even one man who identified himself as a homeless veteran saying he would challenge Coffman for the mayoral position if the ordinance passed. Proponents of the measure argued that the city needed to address the growing problem of homelessness for business owners and residents and require people to seek shelter off the streets, while opponents — a large number of whom were rallied by the group The Party for Socialism and Liberation — argued it was inhumane, criminalized homelessness and would open up the city to future litigation.