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Police, homeless at odds over live-in vehicle parking

By Scott Harrison
Published On: Dec 28 2012 04:58:37 PM CST
Updated On: Dec 28 2012 07:56:46 PM CST

People living in vehicles accused of violating city's abandoned-vehicle ordinance.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -

Some homeless people who live in their vehicles complain that an abandoned-vehicle ordinance in Colorado Springs is unfair.

Scott Anderson and Steven Gerz walked to KRDO NewsChannel 13 this week to complain about the ordinance.  They said they live in their vehicles along a three-block stretch of Sierra Madre Street and were among a dozen homeless people who received red warning stickers on their vehicles from police.

The ordinance states that no vehicle can be parked in the same place on public property for longer than 72 hours.  Violators face having their vehicles towed and impounded, as well as paying at least $75 to reclaim the vehicles.

Many homeless people can't afford such an expense or repair their vehicles enough to move them.

"There is very limited area for us to move to," said Gerz.  "At the end of that 72 hours, at night, when it's possibly zero (degrees) out and out and our cars probably have been towed by then, where do we go?"

"They don't want tents around," said Anderson.  "We were trying to stay hidden there.  We're going to have to keep moving.  The city has gone too far with mismanagement of the homeless situation."

The citations were issued by members of the police's Homeless Outreach Team.  Officer Brett Iverson denies that the homeless are being singled out for enforcement.

"This happens all over town," he said.  "It's just that there have been numerous complaints about Sierra Madre.  They're trying to sell the buildings down there.  When people go look at them, they see a bunch of abandoned vehicles down there, and they're hesitant to buy that real estate because of that."

Iverson said the homeless congregate on Sierra Madre because it's close to available services and temporary jobs.  He suggests the homeless find more permanent shelter or find private property owners who will let them park.

"We have people that will help out in numerous ways," Iverson said.  "There's no reason for them to be out there, using the excuse that they're homeless and have nowhere to go."

Iverson said as many as 150 people sleep outside at night, but that number decreases significantly in cold weather.  He said there's plenty of temporary shelters available in cold weather, but most homeless people refuse them because of restrictions such as not allowing pets.

The homeless people who were cited this week must move their vehicles by the weekend to avoid having the vehicles towed.

"There has to be some place that the city can designate for us to be," said Gerz.

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