Submitted by Vickie Hoffman
Janet Yoder, president of Heather Gardens Republican Club, greeted an audience of over 100 eager attendees to hear Mayor Mike Coffman speak on his experience living with the homeless for a week. After staying in several shelters and encampments in Aurora and Denver, he concluded that there are three homeless populations:
- 1. Those who are truly mentally ill
- 2. Those with addictions
- 3. Those who are displaced economically
The common denominator for these three populations is the fact they are homeless, but other than that, these populations require different approaches to assisting them. The mentally ill need to consent to treatment while those with addictions need to commit to being sober before a path of treatment can be made available to them. The economic displaced are the most resilient group. Many had their jobs disrupted due to COVID but some have managed to get part-time jobs. This group relies on shelters for their housing. Most want to go back to work. Homeless in shelters never stay at encampments and vice versa. In order to stay at an encampment, Mayor Coffman had to ask for permission from the appointed leader. The biggest concern of the leader was to prevent the encampment from getting too large and be swept by the police. It was also noted that sanitation is nonexistent in these areas.
Mayor Coffman concluded that he wants to get people out of poverty. He is working on a plan that will enable the homeless to do that. He stressed we need to stop enabling a lifestyle of behaviors that keep the individual homeless.
The next meeting of the club will be held Wednesday, August 25 at Heather Gardens.