Broomfield Mayor Pro Tem and a councilor, along with other area officials, condemned Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman’s week of covert homelessness that ultimately led him to consider homelessness a lifestyle.
Mayor Pro Tem Guyleen Castriotta and Councilor Sharon Tessier attended a virtual press conference Thursday organized by Aurora Councilor Juan Marcano in response to Coffman’s Homelessness Week. Aurora, Englewood, and Denver councilors, Adams and Arapahoe county officers, and nonprofit representatives also attended.
“Mayor Coffman’s stunt was disrespectful and his superficial understanding of the issues is detrimental to our unfounded neighbors,” the press release said. “Sleeping outside and in shelters for a week knowing he has a home, an $ 80 job waiting for him, gives him no insight into the very real trauma that people experience before and during their time experience the street. “
Speaking at the press conference, Tessier said that when Castriotta first shared the story with her, she “walked away very confused”.
She said, on the one hand, she applauded Coffman’s enthusiasm and efforts to understand homelessness, adding that she had not tried those efforts.
“On the other hand, it’s a very incomplete and under-explored story,” she said.
Tessier is the sister of someone who has experienced homelessness and has taken note of her work as Housing Advocate Manager for Broomfield FISH, where she “works directly with the homeless”.
She hoped the press conference would allow local governments to focus on what they could do together to tackle the complex issues of homelessness.
Castriotta did not speak at the conference but did tell the Broomfield Enterprise after knowing from working with the unhodged population that many factors cause homelessness.
“People who live from paycheck to paycheck can become homeless when faced with medical expenses or unexpected financial setbacks,” she said. “In the shelter where I worked, so many women fled domestic violence and divorce and had no other place to go.
“We need to dispel the myths and stigma surrounding this problem and not reduce the cause of homelessness to drug and alcohol abuse,” Castriotta said.
Coffman took a week off to cover himself up as “Homeless Mike,” only telling Shaun Boyd from Denver TV station CBS4. He wanted to know the cause of the growing number of homeless camps, Boyd reported, “not from those who study it, but from those who live it.”
When Boyd asked if homelessness was a housing shortage problem, Coffman said, “It really isn’t. It is a lifestyle choice and a very dangerous lifestyle choice. “
More than 80 people, including Coffman, attended the press conference on Thursday. Coffman was not speaking and had his camera off and muted.
“The goal for today is to acknowledge that this (Coffman’s stint) is damaging in many ways,” said Aurora Councilor Crystal Murillo at the start of the call.
In a follow-up statement released after the CBS4 interview, Coffman wrote, “My intention was to see the difference between those who stay in the shelters and those who stay in the camps. Those who lived in the camps were not interested in gaining access to the accommodations because of their “rules”, so I consider this their choice. No doubt I was surprised at the drug use (meth, crack cocaine and heroin) in the camps and obviously they would be excluded from drug use while in a shelter. I didn’t mean to say that homelessness is itself a choice. “