Tenant/landlord relationship with Rocky Top complicates homeless camp eviction

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - UPDATE (3/18): In an abrupt about-face Thursday, the El Paso County Sheriff's Office (EPSO) now says the dozens of residents of a large homeless camp will not have to vacate the camp Friday as initially planned.

According to a spokesperson with the office, the residents of that camp are technically in a tenant/landlord relationship with the owner of Rocky Top Resources, as he originally gave them permission to live on his property.

Deputies say it's likely the owner changed his mind about the camp due to unsanitary conditions and how big it got. More than 75 people moved into the camp after he opened up his property.

The sheriff's office said he is entitled to trying to evict the homeless residents but must undergo a civil process to do so, just like any other landlord would.

"The sheriff's office is committed to making sure we protect the rights of all citizens in our community," EPSO said in a statement.


PREVIOUS (3/7): Homeless people living in one of the biggest camps one deputy at the El Paso County Sheriff's Office has ever seen have less than two days to move.

The camp is located near Rocky Top Resources, close to Highway 24 and East Las Vegas Street in Colorado Springs. Some residents of the camp 11 News talked to on Wednesday didn't know where they would move to next. A lot of them had moved to this new camp after a separate large camp in the city had been cleared out.

The owner of the property originally said campers were allowed to stay there, but recently changed his mind. 11 News reporter Khloe Keeler reached out to the owner to see what his reasoning was, but he hasn't returned any calls as of Thursday afternoon. Deputies say their theory is that the camp has gotten so big and so dirty, he's kicking them out.

"It's probably the biggest camps I've ever seen," said Lt. Bill Huffor with the El Paso County Sheriff's Office. "It's a mess."

About 75 to 100 people have been living in the camp without running water or electricity. Huffor says it's a safety hazard.

"Because of what you will see -- the propane tanks, the needles, the trash, the human waste -- there is no such thing as a clean homeless camp," he said.

Deputies are letting campers know they're trespassing and need to leave by Friday. This isn't the first time many of these people have just picked up camp and moved to another location in the city.

"They've moved us from camp to camp to camp," Chasta Rogers told 11 News.

Rogers said she doesn't know where she'll go next. "I have no clue, I don't care ... I've reached the point where I just don't care."

The deputies handed out pamphlets with homeless resources. Anyone who is not gone by Friday will be cited for trespassing.

Huffor told 11 News the plight of the homeless is a community issue.

"This is a community problem. The law enforcement piece of the puzzle is what you will see today, enforcing trespassing on private property at the request of the property owner. That’s our responsibility, and we take it very seriously and we will do it.

"Where they go next, is where the community needs to engage. Affordable housing, mental health treatment, substance abuse treatment, the list goes on and on.”

Friday morning, volunteers from Keep Colorado Springs Beautiful will be at the camp to start cleaning up debris left behind.