Commerce City joined nearly half a dozen other metro Denver municipalities Monday night with passage by its City Council of an urban camping ban.
The city’s ban, which applies to both private and public property, is set to take effect in 30 days. The vote by City Council was 6-1 in favor.
“The establishment of outdoor urban encampments has created hazardous conditions for persons living in such encampments, caused environmental degradation, and in some cases, damage to private and public property, including city facilities, and further interfered with the public use of the property, including, but not limited to, the free movement of persons in the public right of way,” reads Commerce City’s ordinance.
The measure stipulates that a verbal or written order first be issued to a violator. If the person refuses to go to a city-provided shelter after being ordered to vacate the camping area, he or she could be issued a citation or face arrest.
“The city’s priority will be to first conduct outreach efforts and work to connect unhoused people with resources and assistance programs that could help them,” said city spokesman Travis Huntington. “If and when the camping ban goes into effect, the city intends to respect the rights of unhoused individuals and treat them with dignity in any enforcement efforts.”
The city’s decision Monday comes as homebuyers are finding it increasingly difficult to afford a house in metro Denver, where the average daily gain in home prices rose $94 a day during the decade starting in 2011 — as the price for a home shot up from $231,400 in 2011 to $607,100 last year.
Colorado remains 127,000 homes and apartments short of what is needed to comfortably house its population. In January, the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative released its second annual State of Homeless report, which found that the number of people in the metro area who reported experiencing first-time homelessness in 2021 nearly doubled over 2020.
Huntington said encampments in Commerce City tend to pop up along Sand Creek, often in the form of people living out of their RVs or campers.
Just half a year ago, Aurora approved an urban camping ban after a debate that went on for nearly a year. Denver, Boulder, Centennial and Parker have also put in place bans.
Denver was the first Colorado city to do so, when it passed a camping ban in 2012. Voters in the city overwhelmingly chose to keep the ban in place in 2019.
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