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Since-moved Makeshift Camp Indicative of More Visible Homelessness in Longmont

September 20, 2018

People, who declined to give their names, clean up a camp near Golden Ponds on Monday. The woman whose belongings comprised the camp agreed to move them into storage.

After receiving a number of complaints last week, a woman who made a makeshift camp near Golden Ponds Park agreed with Longmont police to move her belongings into a storage unit.

The camp, which was “in the face of the public,” is indicative of a rising trend of transients choosing to live in less secluded areas of the city, according to Master Police Officer David Kennedy.

While it might prompt complaints from the public, Kennedy said he thinks it’s a good thing.

“As a community, we kinda need to know what exactly is going on,” he said.

Kennedy said police worked with a CORE team — a new police program that partners officers with mental health clinicians and an EMT — to talk with the woman at Golden Ponds and tell her about available resources.

“My goal is working with folks and getting them the resources they need,” he said, adding they also explain how the camps impact the community.

The relatively new approach also is moving more people into Boulder County’s coordinated entry program, which in turn decreases the number of people who remain homeless, he said.

This is reflected in the city’s cleanup costs. In 2017, Longmont had spent $17,786 by June on “homeless camp mitigation,” according to Sandi Seader, assistant city manager. By June of 2018, it had spent around $8,000.

The number of homeless people in Boulder County overall has decreased, according to Point-in-Time data from the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative. The data shows that 592 people were counted in 2018, compared to 658 in 2015.

Longmont police tagged the Golden Ponds camp, which is off of Third Avenue and visible to passersby, last week after receiving complaints. Once a camp is tagged, the person has 48 hours to move their items or the city’s Parks and Recreation Department will clean up the site.

Kennedy, who visited the site on Tuesday, said the woman had already moved most of her items into storage. This story is common, he said, as property is a barrier for people when they first become homeless.

Another woman, a Longmont native who became homeless due to a disability, also was staying on the property in an RV. Kennedy said they gave her information on where she could go for help, and she seemed responsive.

Because both of the women were in public view, police were able to respond to their camps quickly and tell them about resources, which Kennedy said he views as a positive thing.

While the reason why people are doing so is personal, he said many appear to be seeking more public spaces for safety reasons.

For example, a number of transients chose to sleep in the breezeways in the downtown area this summer, which he said wasn’t the case in previous years.

“They felt safer downtown,” he said. “Because there’s more eyes watching over them.”

In contrast, staying in a secluded area of the St. Vrain Greenway that lacks lighting seems less appealing.

Madeline St. Amour: 303-684-5212, mstamour@prairiemountainmedia.com

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