July 23, 2010
This is the tale of two cities. It’s a look at the cities of Boulder and Colorado Springs regarding their municipal approach to a growing problem on the Colorado front range — A problem that’s affecting not only the state, but the entire country as well.
As we all know, Boulder prides itself on being the forward thinking, liberally enlightened and progressive center of academia here in Colorado. While Colorado Springs is seen as more of a conservative military town steeped in fundamentalist Christian values and right wing political views. Yet in spite of these dissimilarities, within the last 12 months both cities have passed very similar ordinances banning camping and sleeping on public property within their city limits.
Now in rosier economic times, this would not be an issue. But here in mid 2010, the economy is heading toward what may well be a full-blown economic depression by the end of 2011, and many folks are facing foreclosure and property seizures. New jobs are virtually nonexistent and many existing jobs are being phased out as a result of economic constraints in both the private and the public job markets. As a result, many Americans are now on the verge of homelessness.
- A d v e r t i s e m e n t
There has been an alarming increase in the number of homeless people living on the streets, in parking lots, parks and along waterways in our cities and towns over the last 12 to 18 months. This fact will begin showing up in the new homeless statistics later this year. So, as a result of the increased numbers, and for sanitation, health, and appearance reasons Boulder and Colorado Springs have passed city ordinances prohibiting use of public property by the homeless. The only real difference in each of these laws is the focus and way they are being implemented.
In Boulder’s case, they began by immediately issuing citations, over 1600 so far, requiring the homeless to make a court appearance. One such case involved a man named David Madison who was ticketed, then found guilty and fined in Boulder Municipal Court under this new ordinance. He was guilty of nothing more than being huddled in his sleeping bag next to a building on a public sidewalk after being turned away from a crowded Boulder shelter earlier that cold November day. On June 28th the ACLU took up Mr. Madison’s case by filing suit against the city of Boulder challenging their Ordnance. Boulder only had a total of 160 shelter beds available when Mr. Madison was turned away.
Colorado Springs however, during the height of the homeless crisis last winter, issued no citations. They began by taking people directly to shelters, and setting up emergency facilities once the existing shelters were full. Those who refused to be sheltered, were asked to leave the area and reestablished themselves elsewhere outside of the city limits.
Colorado Springs is now working with local and state church operated charitable organizations and other non-governmental charities, hoping to avoid a repeat of last winter’s homeless crisis. This year however there is likely to be a much larger number of homeless as the cold season approaches and the recession deepens. In Colorado Springs, Boulder and elsewhere, this scaling up for an increase in indigent people will cost a bunch. My experience is that donations to your local church charitable organizations, and the Salvation Army are your best bet.
The bottom-line is that Colorado springs is handling their homeless problem in a manner that is commendable. Boulder however, will have to reorganize and pay not only for additional shelter space, but also pay damages to Mr. Madison and others, not to mention ACLU court costs as well.
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