Cañon City, Colo. — On Monday, Cañon City tabled the second reading of an ordinance that would give a temporary safe space to people experiencing homelessness.

“It’s set up that they have six months, so it’s not a permanent setting,” said Cañon City councilmember, Tim Denehey, representing District 4. “But… we’re trying to help basically, as you know, there’s going to be those that want the help and need the help.”

The Safe Outdoor Space (SOS) ordinance was passed in April, and will be revisited again June 20. The idea behind the ordinance is that city council said it will keep transients in one area so they have somewhere to go when they’re asked to leave city property.

Councilmember John Hamrick talks about how the ordinance would follow an ordinance passed banning homeless people from camping on city property. Credit: Rachel Saurer

“We passed an ordinance that said: ‘no camping on city property’,” said Cañon City councilmember, John Hamrick, representing District 3. “And if there is no bed available for that person, you cannot prevent them from camping on city property.”

But, several local residents spoke out during the council meeting, voicing their concerns of safety. Melissa Hyams, a Cañon City resident, said she had concerns with where they were going to put the SOS.

“Why do you constantly put it where we are?” Hyams asked the council. “Where we are constantly being inundated with problems and issues with the homeless?”

Mannie Colon, a third-generation farmer in Fremont County, talked about the vandalism he has experienced from homeless people over the years.

“On the trespassing issue… I have lost fenders off of trailers, I’ve lost wheels off of trailers,” he said, adding he reached out to law enforcement to no avail.

Councilmember Tim Denehey said the SOS would not be a large tent city. Credit: Rachel Saurer

Mike Short told a story of how, in the middle of the night, law enforcement found a naked man wielding a machete on his property.

“Everybody wants to be able to help the homeless,” Short said. “But I’m really concerned about the safety of my family. Some of them are very dangerous.”

Hamrick addressed these concerns, saying: “Those were property owners who were experiencing these bad actors. That is an entirely valid observation and it is, in my view, something that we need to see if there is some solution.”

Denehey said the SOS would be monitored and won’t be as big as a lot of people might think.

“People thought maybe this was going to become a tent city,” he said. “We’re looking at maybe five or six tents. There’s a very good accountability with it. There will be restrooms. There will be wash rooms that they would be using.”

Council said, if this ordinance passes, they don’t have a location yet, but they said the SOS will be on city property.

“As we look at spaces and that for homeless,” Denehey said, “I hope we get to some point where there is some accountability as far as working or volunteering if they can’t get a job and go that route.”

You can view the full council meeting on YouTube.