The Durango City Council and the La Plata County Commission may reconvene a coalition focused on homelessness.
Problems associated with camping on public land, such as the risk of starting a wildfire and the difficulty of responding to emergencies, were chief among the concerns officials expressed during a joint meeting Thursday.
County Commissioner Brad Blake described the area west of the Tech Center where homeless camping is allowed as unhealthy and unsafe.
“We as electeds owe it to the county to make better decisions,” he said.
Councilor Chris Bettin suggested reconvening a coalition to tackle the issue and including homeless residents in any solution. He also called on the group to put a plan in place to address homelessness by April.
“The solution is not what is happening now,” he said.
Police Chief Kamran Afzal suggested the group identify a specific problem to solve and give the coalition of professionals a specific charge.
In Arlington County, Virgina, where Afzal previously worked, officials set out to reduce homelessness, and it has dropped by about 64 percent in five years, he said.
“Nobody is going to eliminate it completely,” he said.
Commissioner Gwen Lachelt agreed that setting clear goals is an important step.
Several officials agreed that trying to eliminate camping on public lands should be a short-term goal.
Commissioners Julie Westendorff and Blake both voiced support for an organized camp of some kind, but the boards did not discuss specific locations for camps as they have in the past.
The boards agreed to reconvene to discuss the topic within the next 30 to 45 days.