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Colorado Springs eyeing new ordinance for homeless camps - KOAA.com | Continuous News | Colorado Springs and Pueblo

Colorado Springs eyeing new ordinance for homeless camps

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COLORADO SPRINGS -

The Colorado Springs Fire Department was able to extinguish a small fire in Colorado Springs Thursday morning, before it got out of control.

They say it was sparked by a homeless camp, off of East Fillmore, telling News5 they've been dispatched to a lot of these calls lately.

Mayor John Suthers says adding more resources to the existing Homeless Outreach Team could help with that.

"We're talking to the county about combining efforts between the Sheriff's Office and the PD," he told News5.

"I also believe as we add 120 police officers over the next four years, that the likelihood it will increase the manning of the HOT team is pretty good," he added.

The challenge, though, is the actual enforcement of the camping ban.  

If the shelters are full, the city's HOT team cannot legally ask campers to move.  If there are beds available, they still have to give homeless individuals 24 hours to remove that camp.

"If they do move--and this is part of the problem--they may move a half mile.  And then we've got to post them again and say 'you can't camp here,'" Suthers explained.

"And I understand it's a frustration.  The law is a frustration to me."

The city may have found an exception to that law, though.

Mayor Suthers says the city attorney is now researching whether its constitutional to come up with an ordinance that would prohibit camping--under any circumstances--in proximity to waterways.

"I think that's probably going to be the case in order to reduce E. Coli levels and things like that.  I would suspect we would come to the council in the next couple months with an ordinance prohibiting camping within--whether it be 75 feet or something like that--of any stream or waterway."

Mayor Suthers says long term, the city needs to establish permanent, affordable housing for those looking for help.

"We have 55 people in the rescue mission shelter beds right now who are working," he said.

"These people obviously want to be housed.  They just haven't been able to find a place they can afford.  So part of the solution is finding housing that these folks can afford."

No specific timeline has been laid out yet for this affordable housing model.

Mayor Suthers also pointed out it won't completely solve the homelessness problem in the city.

"I don't want our public to be naive.  There is a portion of these outside campers who do not want to be sheltered.  And we're just going to have to keep moving them when they're in violation of a camping ordinance, and taking them to task on it."

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