The Durango City Council discussed where to build a permanent legal campground for homeless residents on Tuesday and found challenges with all of the sites.
The site could be governed by a nonprofit similar to Mesilla Valley Community of Hope in Las Cruces, New Mexico, a model that has worked for many years to help transition people out of homelessness, Sheriff Sean Smith said.
The council spent the most time discussing a site on the social services campus on Avenida del Sol, which is near the Durango Community Shelter, Manna and housing supplied by Housing Solutions for the Southwest.
The Durango Dog Park, a parcel in Bodo Industrial Park near the La Plata County jail, and the former county landfill were also listed as options.
City staff will continue researching all possible sites and talk with stakeholders, particularly La Plata County staff, Assistant City Manager Kevin Hall said.
All the sites have challenges, and council heard from neighbors about the problems of putting the camp on the social services campus.
Rachel Bauske, division director of Southwest Colorado Volunteers of America, which runs the Durango Community Shelter, and Elizabeth Salkind with Housing Solutions raised concerns about a site near the housing they provide for at-risk people, including families.
Salkind feared that her organization could lose funding and leave 11 families homeless and create conflicts between the different populations.
Using the site for a camp would also eliminate it as a site for permanent supportive housing in the future, Mayor Dick White said.
The seven-acre site in Bodo Park is owned by La Plata County and it would create transportation problems because of its remote location, Councilor Dean Brookie said.
Putting the camp in the dog park could be a highly visible location because it is close to U.S. Highway 160, a busy tourist corridor, Hall said.
Locating it in the former landfill north of Greenmount Cemetery would present many of the same issues as the current homeless camping site that La Plata County allows west of the Tech Center.
The other issue is finding a nonprofit to run the camp if it’s built, Councilor Sweetie Marbury said.
“Most of the nonprofits are pretty well tapped out,” she said.