Purple Cliffs Closure Minimal Impact So Far – The Durango Herald


Law enforcement awards partnerships with community organizations that help the homeless

New signs posted at the end of Tech Center Drive closing off an area used by homeless campers prior to the advent of the Purple Cliffs. (Garret Jaros/Durango Herald)

Local authorities are reporting little to no change in the number of homeless camps sprouting up in and around Durango after the populated Purple Cliffs camp closed on Monday.

“For the past two weeks, it’s been pretty much static or status quo,” said Steve Barkley, Durango’s code enforcement manager. “I don’t know where they went. That’s the million dollar question. I saw several vehicles loading stuff. Yesterday (Thursday), near Walmart, they were loading stuff into a car that had New Mexico license plates. So maybe they’re going home for the winter? I really don’t have an answer.

Purple Cliffs resident Joshua Hacket, who grew up in Cortez and Durango, surfed with local friends until he found his next move.

“But people are tired of sleeping on their sofa, using their hot water for showers,” he said. “I have an RV in Cortez at my cousin’s house but I owe storage fees and I don’t have the money so I might lose it. I have a tent that I can pitch to the edge of the river after dark and dismount it before sunrise.

Joshua Hackett stands next to his earth oven at his old campsite at Purple Cliffs. The construction of the kiln contributed to its efforts at sobriety. (Garret Jaros/Durango Herald)

Hacket has lived at Purple Cliffs for the past year, as well as intermittently before that during the camp’s four-year existence. He was building an earth oven at his campsite when the eviction notice came.

“I’m actually extremely proud of it,” he said of the oven. “It was therapy for me because I like to dig. The endorphins helped me stay sober.

Hacket attributes his homelessness to “not living the best life lately”. He has found occasional construction work with a friend, but not having a stable place where he feels safe to leave his dog has been a contentious issue. His hope, he said, is that local authorities can find a solution quickly.

Durango Deputy Police Chief Brice Current credits community partnerships with organizations such as the Manna Soup Kitchen and Navigation Center, the Homeless Coordinating Council and Volunteers of America that help homeless people alleviate hardships. by displaced campers, as well as to lessen the impact on greater Durango. community. He also praised the “homeless” elders who stepped in to help.

“We are very, very, extremely humbled by our partners,” he said. “They offer a high level of expertise. And really, the power of any police organization is built on community partnership, trust. In many communities, it can be us versus them with the police.

“But we try to police in a way that our community wants us to police, so we can create a safe community together. It’s the only way to do it.

Current played down any increase in problems with people displaced by the closure of Purple Cliffs. He cited 40 incidents of “trespassing and illegal camping” in the first week of September, and another 40 in the second week of September. The number rose to 64 in the third week, then fell to 56 in the final week.

During the first seven days of October, there were a total of 67 contacts regarding trespassing or illegal camping. The vast majority of contacts are verbal warnings and not citations, although there have been a few, Current said.

“So I would say we’ve seen a modest increase,” he said. “But it’s more of a slow drip than people expected.”

Current points out that describing the homeless population in broad strokes is a mistake.

“I know a lot of people want to see this as a simple problem, or things happening in a vacuum, but it’s really more complex than that. And we have to look at each individual to see what their story is,” he said. “There are some bad actors we have to deal with, but it’s pretty easy to tell if it’s just someone who needs help, or if it’s someone taking advantage of the system.”

There are probably 20 to 40 people the police deal with constantly, he said. And they account for a high percentage if not all of crime. But they represent a small percentage of the total homeless population.

Purple Cliffs is currently being dismantled. The La Plata County Sheriff’s Office is using drones to enforce the camping ban.

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