Reader: "Homeless Mike" Was a Decent Idea...in Theory

"Homeless Mike" didn't win points with service providers.EXPAND
"Homeless Mike" didn't win points with service providers.
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"I've not taken time off since I was sworn in as the Aurora Mayor on December 2nd, 2019 and I've decided to take some much needed time off from noon today to noon on the 2nd of January, 2021," Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman tweeted in late December. "I will remain in the area but will not be posting on social media, answering phone calls and emails, or responding to any media inquiries."

As Conor McCormick-Cavanagh reported in "'Homeless Mike' Is Back Home in the Aurora Mayor's Office," Coffman did indeed stay in the area: For a week, he lived as a homeless individual, spending four nights in shelters in Aurora and Denver and three nights in unofficial encampments. Only one person knew of the mission of "Homeless Mike": Shaun Boyd, who first shared Coffman's story on CBS4 on January 5.

Coffman's gambit was no home run. Homeless service providers and public officials held a press conference on January 7 to criticize his move. And readers posting comments on the Westword Facebook page had plenty of things to say, too. Says Julian:

He needs to resign. This is disgusting. Using up actual resources that homeless people actually need. A disgrace to our city. Resign now effective immediately.

Responds KJ: 

He has done more to become educated on homelessness than any person holding political office. How about you?

Replies Suzie: 

I have been homeless, and I can tell you he did not do a good thing. He might have meant well, but what he did was find the people he expected to find and likely that is why the others stayed away from him.

Adds Peggy:

 Mayor needs to spend two months minimum with NO resources. No bathrooms, no food, no place to sleep. NOTHING, just like the real homeless. Wear the same clothes day after day. Nowhere to "wash up." Scraps of food in dumpsters.

No clue, Mayor Coffman!

Counters Octavos: 

I don't really see the problem. He took a closer look, and drew the same conclusions that most would have. At least he sat with the issues, and didn't pontificate from his desk. He also recognized that enacting a ban on camping is not the solution. What exactly did his detractors expect?

Says Paige: 

There’s a decent idea in there, like... in theory. To understand the struggles of the homeless population. Which a lot of people (and politicians) are ignorant to but uh... you know, in practice, he just went camping on the streets for a few days (and took up beds at shelters that other people actually need) and came to a super gross “realization” that tosses a blanket statement onto the entire population that allows even *more* discrimination toward a group that people already treat like shit. Solid.

Responds Mark:

A politician who is willing to look at an issue through a different perspective should be lauded and not scolded. Yes, he reached some conclusions that groups may not like, but he also changed his mind on the camping ban. A lot of the politicians who are complaining only see one solution — theirs, and they discount Mayor Coffman taking this first step.

There is not a single solution to the homeless problem. Mental illness, drug use, alcohol abuse, physical abuse - all need to be addressed. The SOS camps have been a success so far, but they will require "the next step" when they close in six months.

Concludes Mark:

He was gone for a week and his staff didn’t notice. Government jobs are great.

What do you think of Coffman's week on the street? The response to "Homeless Mike"? Post a comment or share your thoughts at editorial@westword.com.

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