AURORA, Colo. — This week, Douglas County commissioners and the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office sent a letter to Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman asking the mayor or a city representative to join the county’s Homeless Initiative Executive Committee and engage in discussions about resources for people experiencing homelessness.
Last week, Coffman publicly expressed concerns over the Doulgas County Jail-based Reintegration Program, which helps recently released homeless inmates find shelters and resources. Sometimes, those inmates are transported to other cities. like Aurora.
The letter to Coffman reads in part, “One contributing factor to the growth of the unsheltered is the lack of public transportation in Castle Rock. This is an issue for the 76.59% (Jan – May 2022) of those being released from our county jail – in Castle Rock – who are not from Douglas County and have no transportation options to return to their originating community or the community to which they have ties.”
Coffman said he wants Douglas County to stop transporting the unsheltered to his city.
“I think it sets a very bad precedent in Colorado, where it is the goal of one jurisdiction is to take, export its homeless to others,” the mayor said. “I think Douglas County, number one, needs to realize that it has responsibilities. ”
Douglas County lacks emergency shelters, and many taxpayers have pushed back against plans to build them.
Coffman told Denver7 he was not interested in an intergovernmental agreement regarding resources for the unsheltered.
“I informed [Sheriff Tony Spurlock] yesterday, that I wouldn't be negotiating an agreement,” Coffman said.
While Coffman and Spurlock continue discussions surrounding the issue, Aurora’s nonprofits are struggling to keep up with an increase in demand for services.
“We have seen a 100% increase in requests for services,” Aurora Salvation Army Lieutenant Carl Esquivel said.
He said most of the increased demand is for shelter, food and utility payment help.
“We have 163 people in the waiting list as at our SOS site, which is our safe outdoor space on Peoria and 33rd,” Esquivel said.
Mile High Behavioral Healthcare communications director Anna Miller said her nonprofit has also experienced a large increase in demand for services.
“We will not turn anyone away,” Miller said. “I know people are working very hard behind the scenes to increase resources and really just provide a safe place for these individuals or families as they get back on their feet.”
But Miller said at a time when rent prices and inflation are skyrocketing, city, county, and state leaders can accomplish more by working together.