Coping with camps on the Colorado River

So, transients and others who know they are violating either city ordinances or trespassing laws when they set up camps along the Colorado River should be given more than three days to clear out, advocates for the homeless say.

In fact, some of those advocates would really prefer the illegal campers not be forced to move at all, and that the city create a make-work program to keep them busy while they camp on city property.

But that would create even more problems for the city of Grand Junction and its citizens. It would encourage additional people to set up camp along the river and would discourage others from using the publicly owned riverfront and its trails for recreational purposes.

As City Attorney John Shaver explained Wednesday, city ordinances prohibit unauthorized camping on city land. The city needs to enforce that requirement for everyone, and giving squatters three days notice that their tents and other belongings will be held by police if they are not moved should be ample time.

That is not to say there aren’t real problems facing the homeless and a limited number of services available to them. Various organizations in this community have struggled to provide services — even expand them — to meet the needs of what appears to be a growing homeless population.

Additionally, the biggest demons of large numbers of homeless people around the country are mental-illness or drug and alcohol addictions, or both. Getting them into programs that lead to self-sufficiency is often difficult.

But many citizens of Grand Junction have made it clear that they want their public properties — parks, riverfront, roadways — available to them and their families without fear of violence or intimidation from transients and other homeless.

The Grand Junction Police Department and city authorities are walking a fine line, trying to protect their citizens and enforce city laws without acting like thugs in dealing with the homeless. In fact, the Police Department received substantial criticism from the public for establishing a special task force to work with the homeless.

They and city officials deserve our support, not condemnation, for their careful efforts to enforce city laws in a compassionate manner.


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