Aurora lawmakers consider more Pallet shelters to speed up camping ban enforcement - Sentinel Colorado

2022-06-15 14:12:07 By : Ms. Alice Gao

AURORA | City lawmakers talked about funding an expansion of homeless sheltering at two outdoor Salvation Army sites in Aurora on Monday, as some expressed reservations about turning the Aurora Day Resource Center into a 24/7 shelter.

“We can’t go forward with the camping ban until we have an alternative shelter option,” Mayor Mike Coffman said during a city council study session, referring to the city’s pending ban on homeless camping. “I think this is prudent. I think it’s more expeditious, and it’s a lot cheaper.”

Coffman and Councilmember Francoise Bergan both said they preferred a proposal by staff to add 10-15 new Pallet shelters next to the Salvation Army warehouse on Peoria Street as well as 15 new Pallet shelters at the shelter location managed by the Salvation Army alongside Restoration Christian Fellowship on East Sixth Avenue.

Setting up the small, prefabricated housing units and providing enough case managers and staff would cost around $1 million in the first year, said Jessica Prosser, director of housing and community services for the city.

“I think this is the least invasive, minimal approach, to go with two locations that are already set up,” Coffman said. “I was surprised by how much work it was going to take for the ADRC. I wasn’t prepared for that.”

The mayor also approved of a suggestion that tents be set up as a temporary alternative until the Pallet shelters are installed, which Prosser said could take three to four months. These “safe outdoor spaces” include necessities like restrooms as well as case managers who help connect people with resources like employment, housing and benefits.

Monday’s discussion came after council members discussed renovating the ADRC into a year-round shelter capable of housing up to 108 people, which Prosser said would cost $2.66 million, not including $700,000 annually for staffing.

It was not clear Monday whether those renovations would move forward. The project was suggested originally to meet the goals of the city’s new unauthorized-camping ban, which is expected to result in more aggressive enforcement targeting homeless camps, possibly forcing more people into city-run shelter space.

Not only are homeless-shelter spaces currently filled, Aurora’s homeless population outnumber shelter beds by more than two to one currently, depending on the weather, according to city officials.  Campers cannot be evicted if the city lacks shelter space for all of the camp’s residents, as the pending ban was written.

While no council member opposed the expansion of Salvation Army shelter spaces moving out of study session, Councilmember Curtis Gardner said he was hesitant to invest more city money in temporary shelters when finding a long-term shelter solution has been a goal of the council for years.

“We’ve been saying for the two and a half years that I’ve been on council, ‘What’s our permanent solution going to be?,’ and we haven’t come up with anything,” Gardner said. “”We passed an ordinance, so now the onus is on us to find housing, and my point is we continue to put money into what I would consider temporary solutions.”

When Gardner asked Prosser about the lifespan of an individual Pallet shelter, Prosser said the warranty on the housing unit lasts for 10 years.

Bergan said that although she was skeptical in the past, she supports setting up more Pallet shelters after learning how the Salvation Army program helped connect people with addiction resources and employment.

Prosser said about 46% of people who sheltered at the Salvation Army sites found work with the help of staffers and called Pallet shelters “very effective” at helping people transition out of living in encampments.

Councilmember Dustin Zvonek said he also supported setting up more Pallet shelters, provided they were a bridge to a longer-term shelter option.

“If this helps us to get people off the side of the roads and clean up the encampments, which we’ve said is a public safety and health issue, great. But what’s that long-term solution? I think that’s the next question,” he said.

Bergan said longer-term shelter options would be a topic at the council’s June budget workshop, and Coffman mentioned the city’s investment in efforts to turn the former Ridge View Youth Services Center east of Aurora into supportive housing.

Why doesn’t Aurora allow auxiliary-dwelling units (ADUs) as Denver does? People could erect small dwellings on their properties that would be more affordable in which to reside.

I have often thought of a “tiny home,” but the only places that allow them are trailer parks. That wouldn’t work for me or most other folks. If I could put a tiny home on someone’s property, that might work.

They do, actually!

Coffman said. “I was surprised by how much work it was going to take for the ADRC (Aurora Day Resource Center into a 24/7 shelter.) I wasn’t prepared for that.” Why wasn’t he? Pushing so hard for the BAN without a plan to implement. Plain and simple incompetence.

So the question remains. What is a/the long term solution to the local homeless population? I still believe in a three pronged approach. Once the person is identified and taken to a secure safe housing site: Triaged: LEVEL 1: Offered housing, job, basic health if they are at that level. LEVEL 2: hospitalized for addiction then offered level one LEVEL 3: a. Warrants-incarceration b. If neither L 1 or 2 apply

City needs a farm setting for these people to live on. Away from our urban areas.