If Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman’s observations on the homeless have been harsh, his afterlife options aren’t simpler – CBS Denver
AURORA, Colo. (CBS4)– A month after Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman went undercover for an accurate and unfiltered study of the homeless, he’s now talking about what needs to be done to address the problem. Coffman’s story has taken on a life of its own since CBS4 first reported on the breathtaking, eye-opening experience.
His decision resulted in a backlash from homeless people who say he couldn’t understand the homelessness after a week on the street, but Coffman says most of the feedback has been positive.
“I’ve received emails from all over the country,” said Coffman.
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The story of “Homeless Mike,” Coffman’s undercover alias, has spread widely. Coffman said he had thought long and hard about the people he met and the places he stayed. He also spent time thinking about what worked and what didn’t, and why the problem was getting worse and not better.
“Even in the best economic times, the homeless number increases,” said Coffman.
He is certain that neither the COVID-19 economy nor a lack of resources are driving factors.
“I was asked during the admission process if I needed help with anything,” he said.
Coffman said the challenge is that some people don’t want to change.
“How do we create incentives for people? I mean, are we giving too many resources to those who are not ready to change? “Asked Coffman. “We know that unless people are willing to change, no amount of resources will make a difference in their lives.”
Coffman said the people in camps don’t want to change. He said they lived on the streets not because they are afraid of COVID-19 but because they are addicted to drugs. Coffman said none of them wore masks or were socially distant.
He says the only way to address camps is to close them. Public support should be dependent on drug treatment through programs with a proven track record.
“Develop professional skills and get a job where you can afford stable living space but stay sober,” said Coffman.
His critics say he has no compassion, doesn’t understand the trauma that makes someone live on the streets, and ignores the fact that many homeless people suffer from mental illness.
RELATED: Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman calls for major policy changes for the homeless after living on the streets for a week
“Compassion doesn’t mean their behavior can continue,” said Coffman.
He said while most of those he met did not appear to be mentally ill, we have an obligation to help those who are.
“For this population it would be best if we had 24 hour protection for them,” he said.
Coffman admits the solution is complex, but says homeless advocates making excuses rather than demanding change are part of the problem.
“To paint that broad brush that all of us are kind of victims, if only we could understand them a little better. This narrative has to do with trying to get funding, ”said Coffman. “I will do you the honor of believing what you say when I believe it is wrong. They always say it’s a function of making more money. I think my challenge for them is to spend a day in a camp after a week on the road and then tell me what you think. “