Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman says you should believe him when it comes to homelessness because he spent a week on the streets last year, as seen in a local TV story.
Coffman said his experience in homeless shelters and in on-the-street encampments made him able to “better understand the issue, and not from what people are telling elected officials, but to actually be there with the individuals experiencing homelessness, to be able to to talk with them, to understand their issues.”
But Coffman didn’t stay in any of the encampments in his hometown of Aurora, only in Denver.
In a bizarre admission on a Denver radio show, Coffman said homelessness is a really complicated issue, and he “can’t speak” to the issues at the encampments in Aurora, only Denver.
“This is really [based on] just seeing encampments in downtown Denver, larger encampments in downtown Denver,” Coffman told KNUS’ Jimmy Sengenberger May 22. “This is not the encampments in Aurora. I didn’t stay in them. I can’t really speak to them.”
But Coffman is running to any microphone that will take him, saying the people in homeless encampments are largely there by choice and Aurora needs a camping ban to solve the problem. (Never mind that such bans are known to fail.)
So why in the world did Aurora Mayor Coffman decide to pretend to be homeless in Denver, not Aurora?
“Mayor Hancock had reached out to me and said, ‘Let’s work together on dealing with this housing issue.’ And so fine, of course, I didn’t tell him I was doing this. So I wanted to understand Denver and Aurora,” Coffman told Sengenberger.
But why not venture up to Aurora as well, if he wanted to understand both, given that he’s now left saying he can’t speak to what’s going on in Aurora?
Coffman doesn’t return my calls, so I’m forced to speculate here.
Perhaps he felt the Aurora encampments were more dangerous?
Maybe he was advised that they wouldn’t confirm his ideological view that homelessness is a choice and the encampments are full of drug addicts and others who don’t want to go to shelters or to change their lives.
Or how about this. We know Coffman’s week-long undercover foray as a homeless veteran was essentially a PR stunt, which he conducted with a local CBS TV reporter tracking him for a story headlined “Homeless Mike.”
CBS4’s studios at 10th and Lincoln are just blocks from the Denver encampments Coffman joined, where people brought so much good food it was bad for “weight control,” he says.
But the CBS4 camera operators would have had to drive 20 minutes or more to get to Aurora–and that’s an eternity in the local TV news business, especially if there’d been a storm on the horizon.
Okay, maybe it’s far-fetched to conclude that Coffman decided against sleeping on the streets of Aurora so that he could be near a Denver TV station.
But that such a disgraceful explanation is possible at all speaks to the fact that Coffman’s proposed camping ban — and his Homeless Mike escapade — have so little to do with helping homeless people and so much to do with P.R.
Listen to Coffman on KNUS May 22: