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Durango Police issue citations to protesting homeless residents

Nine citations issued on Sunday
Wendy Myer, left, Richard Bowhay, center, and Millie Sanders sit in the shade near the temporary homeless site near the entrance to Greenmount Cemetery on Sunday. “I’m too old to walk up and down that mountain every day,” Sanders said.

Durango Police issued nine trespassing citations Sunday morning to residents of the temporary homeless camp who refused to break down their tents in an act of protest.

The site’s rules state that only residents with a Rapid Tag – a green card issued to residents after the previous homeless camp was evacuated in the wake of the 416 Fire – are permitted to use the camp.

Residents must not be in the area between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. and must pack up their tents before they leave.

Some residents refused to do so in an act of protest on Friday. “This is a necessary process to achieve a peaceful solution,” said resident Richard Bowhay.

Police informed residents on Saturday that they would begin to issue citations on Sunday if the tents remained standing at 9 a.m.

Residents have complained that the rules have caused numerous problems, such as theft and property damage. Police officers brought 10 more trash cans to the site on Saturday for residents to store their personal belongings during the day.

The police department doesn’t have the staff to monitor the camp full time, Warfield said. Officers observe the camp in between service calls throughout the day.

The department will meet with city officials on Monday to discuss solutions to the problem. One possibility could be that residents who continue to protest could be evicted from the temporary site, Warfield said.

“Either the rules have to change or they have to comply with the rules that are in place,” Warfield said. “We’ll discuss the issue and figure out what we’re going to do.”

Several members of the homeless community spent Sunday at Santa Rita Park looking for shade. Others hung out in trees off the side of a road near the entrance to Greenmount Cemetery.

“What’s the difference between going down by the river all day and us sitting here?” resident Millie Sanders asked. “I’m not in the public being a sore to the eye. They don’t see me. I’m sitting right here. I’m not bothering anybody.”

Wendy Myers, who recently became homeless, said she hopes the protest will get the rules changed and will allow residents to stay during the day.

“I hope we’re taking a step forward because I feel kind of violated,” Myers said.

“It’s just a tent; it’s not hurting anybody. It’s a pain in the butt to do every morning (pack up).”

Residents hope to sit down with city officials to actively work toward a solution, Bowhay said.

Though upset over the state of their camp, residents showed little resistance to the citations and said they don’t have a problem with the police officers.

“It’s not their fault,” Sanders said.

“They’re following orders. I understand it.”

Bowhay, who received a citation on Sunday, hopes a judge will dismiss his citation when he goes to court.

“They’re wasting precious resources and time over petty stuff that they should have resolved years ago,” he said.

asemadeni@ durangoherald.com

Jan 20, 2022
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