Aurora Homeless

A picture of a homeless encampment tweeted by Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman.

(The Center Square) – The Aurora City Council narrowly defeated a measure on Monday that would have prohibited homeless encampments on public or private property within the city.

Known colloquially as an “urban camping ban,” the ordinance was backed by Mayor Mike Coffman and City Attorney Tim Joyce. The ordinance needed six votes for approval, but failed to pass with a 5-5 vote.

Councilmembers Crystal Murillo (Ward I), Juan Marcano (Ward IV), Alison Coombs (Ward V), Allison Hiltz (at-large), and Angela Lawson (at-large), voted against the measure.

Coffman said in a statement that he “absolutely plans” to bring the legislation back before City Council.

The mayor’s ordinance would have allowed city employees to clear homeless encampments after three days’ notice if the city had shelter space.

Aurora currently clears encampments under an Interim Business Policy Memorandum from the city attorney’s office. The temporary policy allows camps to be cleared for public health or safety reasons, but will be rescinded once the COVID-19 state of emergency ends.

Government entities and charitable organizations spend an estimated $7.8 million a year on resources to combat homelessness in Aurora, according to a recent report from the Common Sense Institute, a free enterprise think tank.

Coffman will be allowed to bring the legislation back before City Council after six months, according to a report by the Aurora Sentinel. However, City Council will likely look different by the time the ordinance is reintroduced.

Outside of the Ward V vacancy, at least three members of the council will turnover by the time Coffman can bring the legislation back for a vote. Two of the at-large seats will not run for re-election while another councilmember is term limited.

Coffman has said that Aurora “needs to be more aggressive” in clearing its homeless encampments, but some City Council members don’t see the camping ban as the “compassionate solution.”

Councilmember Marcano described the policy as “playing Whack-a-mole.”

“This isn’t a solution,” he said during Monday night’s meeting.