New tactic utilized for homeless and trash issues in Teller County

Focus on the Forest. Photo courtesy Teller County Sheriff's Office.
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TELLER COUNTY, Colo. (KKTV/The Teller County Sheriff's Office) - A person may end up homeless for any number of reasons. However, homeless camping is a problem and has increased in recent months, according to the Teller County Sheriff's Office.

"In an attempt to mitigate the dangers posed by homeless camps having open fires for heat and the hundreds of pounds of refuse which typically gets blown by the wind and scattered by animals, the Teller County Sheriff’s Office has embarked on a slightly different approach to the problem," the sheriff's office wrote in a release.

The approach being used is known as "Focus on the Forest."

"We acknowledge and empathize with folks who find themselves in circumstances which may be beyond their control in securing a place to live. We also understand that we have discretion as law enforcement officers and can approach the issue from a compassionate, community-based perspective,” Commander Greg Couch said.

In a release Comm. Couch wrote the issue began some time ago when several homeless camps sprung up in area known as “Shelf Road or County Road 88,” part of a tourist area known as the “Gold Belt Scenic Byway.” It is located just outside of Cripple Creek in Teller County. There were multiple piles of trash left by previous illegal campers and new piles of refuse as a result of living without trash service. The area is boasted as the “Roads to Riches” and spans from U.S. Highway 24 to U.S. Highway 50 and features “distinct scenery ranging from rolling mountain parklands to deep rocky canyons.” Shelf Road carried stagecoaches from the mining camps of Cripple Creek and Victor to the Arkansas Valley in the late 1800’s.

The sheriff's office worked with a number of property owners impacted by the homeless camps. The homeless campers were advised of Teller County’s recently passed camping ordinance three weeks ago, given time to find another dedicated campsite, and supplied with trash bags from Focus on the Forest to pick up their area. In exchange for the extra warning time and consideration, the campers agreed to help with the cleanup.

The sheriff's office also recently assigned a deputy to the "homeless liaison position." The position is focused on helping those in need and pointing them to useful resources.