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Aurora mayor warns Dougco not to transport people experiencing homelessness to his city

Douglas County plans to transport people experiencing homelessness to places with more services and resources.

AURORA, Colo. — While the unhoused live on the streets, politicians debate where they should go.

The mayor of Aurora is warning Douglas County not to transport people experiencing homelessness to his city after a new initiative to provide transportation out of the area to people who are homeless. 

Douglas County Sheriff's deputies would drop people off and connect them with resources in different areas where services for homeless people are more established.

Douglas County leaders argue there aren’t enough services in their county to support people living on the streets. While the county works to expand resources, they plan to begin transporting and connecting people with services in places like Denver and Aurora.

"Do not send them here, do not send them here," Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman said in an interview with 9NEWS. "We are going to take care of the people that are here. And they need to do the same with their population."

Last week Coffman wanted Douglas County to pay Aurora for its services. He’s since decided he doesn’t want people being transported to his city at all.

"I think it’s going to be an undue burden on the city of Aurora," said Coffman. "No county should do this to another county, to another city, another jurisdiction, unless they’re willing to accept it."

Coffman said Aurora taxpayers could end up paying more money to fund services for the homeless people Douglas County transports to his city. Many of the services for people experiencing homelessness in Aurora are taxpayer-funded, according to Coffman. 

"Those people that are here who are homeless, we take responsibility for them and we don’t ship them out to another county. We don’t ship them to Denver, we don’t ship them to Douglas County," said Coffman. 

Douglas County Commissioner Abe Laydon said the county is working on creating new services for the homeless. Commissioners recently backtracked a proposal to create a new pallet shelter in the county after getting pushback from the public. Laydon said they won’t transfer everyone experiencing homelessness, only those with ties to other towns.  

"We will take care of our own in Douglas County," said Laydon. "We have no intent to simply transport people from our jail to Aurora. Perhaps part of the misinformation is understanding that those who have ties or that is their originating county we would certainly provide that transportation service to them."

There’s no law preventing Douglas County from taking people and dropping them off in a different city, even if that city is opposed to the plan. Mayor Coffman wants the state legislature to pass a bill outlawing the practice. For now, Coffman said while he’s asking Douglas County not to do this, he will not go around to all the nonprofits providing services to tell them not to take people in.

Homeless advocacy groups question the plan's intentions. Cathy Alderman with the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless said the plan is the wrong step toward fixing the problem.  

"There are many areas that don’t have services like shelters or food banks or community meal stations," said Alderman. "That’s not to say that they couldn’t. Rather than focusing on shifting people to where services are, we need to meet people in the communities in which they live."

Douglas County is starting a working group to tackle homelessness issues. Former Aurora Mayor Bob LeGare will serve on the board representing Aurora.

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