September 12, 2022
An unhoused person cooks his meal late at night in the community kitchen at the Purple Cliffs campsite in Durango, Colo., photo taken on Friday, January 12, 2021. (Photo by Crystal Ashike | KSUT)

Purple Cliffs unmanaged campsite closes at the end of month

The city of Durango is addressing the closing of Purple Cliffs. Over a dozen city and county residents shared their concerns with Durango city council this week.

By Sarah Flower


Sarah Flower:

The unmanage campsite Purple Cliffs is scheduled to close on September 30. One of the presenters from city staff is Luke Alvey-Henderson, he's the director for the Durango Public Library.

He says the latest count as of last week shows that this closure will leave at 82 people, including 10 children from three different families displaced.

According to Durango City's councilors, the city has offered a parcel of land to La Plata county commissioners, but according to them, they have not heard back with less than a month left city councilor Kim Baxter urge Council to act immediately on creating a managed homeless campsite.

A family's tent placed food between a tent window screen and zipped up the tent's window to keep it cold, despite the animals lurking around the Purple Cliffs in Durango, Colo., Photo captured on Sunday, February 7, 2021. (Photo by Crystal Ashike | KSUT)

Kim Baxter:

I think with the imminent closure of Purple Cliffs, we have seen I have seen personally and I know it's been borne out by statistics that a lot of the people have been leaving that area and moving to other areas because they don't know what's going to happen. We have no certainty. There's no stability, we need to take the lead and we need to designate the city on piece of property. It's not the solution, but it's an option that we can do right now.

Sarah Flower:

Last week project Moxie, a nonprofit organization that looks at solutions to affordable housing, presented a petition to the city councilors that had over 550 signatures as of Tuesday.

The petition demands that the city amend its code and to create a space for the unhoused that would have overnight parking, trash and restroom services. Jenn Lopez is the president of project Moxie.

She says her team has solutions, but they can't move forward without a collaboration from the city.

Jenn Lopez:

This not coming together, not having a coherent plan, as a community and I mean city, county, nonprofits. We are making bad policy here. And we're going to pay for it.

Astro, an unhoused artist living at the Purple Cliffs since it first started, uses an ice-shaped lens to burn a walking stick in the community room. He creates different pieces using the sun and ice, photo captured on March 28, 2021. (Photo by Crystal Ashike | KSUT)

Sarah Flower

According to Lopez statistics show that the cost of doing nothing for homelessness is not nothing. She says communities are spending anywhere from $35,000 to $50,000 per unhoused individual.

Jen Lopez:

The best policy is to use our limited resources and to get solutions done. And those solutions benefit the most people in our community. If we partner. There's a number of us in the community that have put out ideas for manage camps and safe parking and even some motel programs. We have solutions we're ready to go. We can't implement any of those solutions without the city being a partner with us.

City staff including Alvey-Henderson, Deputy Chief of Police Brice Current and city manager José Madrigal presented counsel with the current efforts that are being done in the city.

Some of the ideas are de-escalation training for city employees, recruiting additional code enforcement officers and creating sobriety and treatment programs. Counselors echoed that these efforts and the idea of a managed camp for the unhoused will take time and effort and collaborations with multiple agencies throughout the region.

Reporting for KSUT Tribal Radio. I'm Sarah Flower

The Purple Cliffs campsite and tents are nestled in the trees along HWY 213 near the Animas river in Durango, Colo. The community's growth increased in the past two years, including families with children. Photo captured on Friday, June 24, 2022. (Photo by Crystal Ashike | KSUT)

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