Homeless campers in tent city forced out due to zoning violation

Homeless Campers
Homeless campers created a tent city on Springs Rescue Mission's property / Christina Dawidowicz -- FOX21 News

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — More than a hundred homeless campers in a tent city near downtown Colorado Springs were told to pack up their belongings and leave Wednesday afternoon.

“This is probably one of the worst days of my life and this week has been a tough week. We’ve had a hard time,” said Larry Yonker, CEO of Springs Rescue Mission.

And it’s also been hard for the public in the last three weeks, with 28 service calls to the Colorado Springs Police Department relating to assaults, thefts and harassment; all stemming from the tent city outside springs rescue mission.

“When the safety of the people in the camp as well as the safety of people in the neighborhood and the surrounding businesses began to come into question, we had to ask the Rescue Mission to give us a plan for resolving and removing those campers,” said Aimee Cox, community development manager for the City of Colorado Springs.

That plan was to remove all homeless campers Wednesday.

The city had been monitoring the tent city outside Springs Rescue Mission since September 15.

Since then, the number of campers have grown significantly, as well as the number of calls to the Colorado Springs Police Department.

The city issued a notice of zoning violation to the Springs Rescue Mission Tuesday, saying their development plans for their expansion does not allow for camping.

“They were cleaning the property, we put up porta-potties, we’ve done everything we could from that. But now, it’s gotten to a point to where literally they’re sleeping on top of each other and there’s a lot of drugs, a lot of alcohol,” Yonker said.

The city says the problem right now is that there are no low barrier beds.

“What the Rescue Mission is doing and what will open on November 10, the full 232 beds is the solution that we have developed at this point,” Cox said.

The city says they will continue to work on creating a long-term plan to help with what they’re calling a yearly crisis.

Kelly Hicks works nearby, and he says he’s been doing what he can to help the homeless campers, but says he understands the safety issue.

“I bought a couple cases of ice cream and didn’t have enough for everybody. And then a guy pulls a gun on me because I didn’t ice cream for him,” Hicks said.

Hicks says that situation did not stop him from continuing to help them out with food and water.

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