Homeless advocates are upset by Aurora’s mayor’s choice to go undercover as a homeless individual

AURORA, Colorado (KDVR) – When Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman announced he would be taking a vacation the day after Christmas, few had any idea how he would spend his week off.

Coffman didn’t even tell his own family about plans to spend seven days and seven nights on the streets of the Denver Metro in hopes of getting a better understanding of what it’s like to be homeless.

“I didn’t even tell a relative because I thought they’d just freak out and try to talk me out of it,” he says.

Coffman says he spent three nights in different camps and four nights in temporary shelters.

On Wednesday, he surprised some by saying it was a “lifestyle choice” to live in the camps.

“When I said it was a choice, people were very offended,” he says. “But it’s a choice to be in the camp rather than the shelter.”

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On Thursday, more than a dozen elected officials and homeless lawyers held a virtual press conference criticizing Coffman’s comments.

“I find it immoral and disgusting,” said John Stone, a member of Englewood Council. “I think he should make a formal, public apology for it.”

Stone says he was homeless for 5 years, between the ages of 16 and 21, and no one would ever choose to stay in that position.

“It is absurd to say that people want to be homeless,” he says.

Coffman believes drug problems play an important role in people who choose not to be in shelters.

Data shows that around 30% of the homeless in Metro Denver had substance abuse in 2020.

“I see this as an opportunity to start a debate, start a discussion about what is best to help this population.”

Coffman says he’s open to meeting people with specific suggestions on how to fix the problem.

Proponents say it’s an offer they want to take up.

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