Colorado

Dec 8, 2009 7:12 AM by Jeannette Hynes

City leaders discuss homeless issue

Colorado Springs City Council has put a "no camping" ordinance on hold, until Colorado Springs Police can gather input from homeless advocates.

The ordinance, as it is drafted now, would make camping in public parks and easements illegal.  The punishment would be a misdemeanor and the offender would likely pay a fine.  This draft comes on the heels of the growing homeless population in Colorado Springs, and the growing "tent cities" appearing near the city's creeks and in the city's parks.

Colorado Springs Police Chief Richard Myers tells councilmembers his officers understand the homeless can't pay those proposed fines and would likely end up in jail after not paying the fine or showing up for court.  Myers says the homeless issue is a polarizing one, but one that must be addressed as a community, not just by law enforcement.

It's a sentiment echoed by homeless advocates and councilmembers.

"I have yet to meet anyone who is not compassionate [on the homeless issue]," says Councilmember Sean Paige.

The issue is how to uphold the law and make sure the homeless have a place to go to get the services and basic necessities they need.  Also up for discussion, how to manage public safety and health, and allow people their freedom to chose how they live their lives.

City councilmembers instructed Chief Myers to get input from homeless advocacy groups and those who provide services for the homeless over the next few weeks before presenting an ordinance for a vote.

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