Most of RV inhabitants elected to use fake names or surnames due to fear of retaliation in the community and by the Colorado Springs Police Department.
Twelve years ago, Turtle made Colorado Springs his home after a life of hard labor: serving in the U.S. Marine Corps for over 15 years, working as a contractor, and traveling as an Arab linguist. But when Turtle exchanged his apartment for a Recreational Vehicle (RV), the community he grew to love hardened. His town, once welcoming, became uninviting and even hostile.
At the corner of South Sierra Madre Street and West Moreno Avenue, just past the construction site for the new Olympic Museum, Colorado Springs looks post-apocalyptic. A lone hawk circles the sky. A wide plot of land lays barren sprinkled with rusted metal fragments. A Consolidated Electrical Distributors wholesale store sits atop a fragmented asphalt bed. The Warehouse restaurant sign towers like a beacon over the desolate landscape in a shade of end-of-days deep red. In this part of South Central, there are no signs of civilization, except about six RVs lining West Moreno Avenue.
Turtle lives in this group of RVs and has bonded with its community members. Once there were around 18 to 20 RVs; now only about six remain. Many of the occupants, like Turtle, live off West Moreno Avenue as a last resort, having moved into RVs when housing prices skyrocketed last year. With the passage of the amendment to City Ordinance 10A threatening their lifestyle, Turtle and other RV residents feel trapped.
The proposed amendment to City Ordinance 10A will allow police officers to ticket RVs for parking on all streets for a period deemed “greater than necessary.” Starting on June 1, first-time offenders will be fined $25. Second time offenders will be ticketed $100, and third, $125. Four tickets will draw a court summons, yet the residents of West Moreno feel that they cannot meet these fees as they are already struggling with the costs of living.
Many RV residents have come from 8th Street where they have already been ticketed for parking off Colorado Avenue and in the Texas Road House parking lot. Some have come from in front of Memorial Park as well, where they were pushed out by the CSPD Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) team.
RV residents say that these officers use unnecessary force and hostility. Turtle claimed that, when he was ticketed at Texas Roadhouse, HOT team officers threatened to tase him and used obscene language. Turtle says at Texas Road House HOT officers approached him, one with a gun in hand the other simply trying to intimidate Turtle. The officer with a gun demanded that Turtle, “give him [the other officer] your fucking ID.”
Earl, another resident of West Moreno also shared that he has experienced overt aggression, hostility, and obscene language from this team. When Earl said to one of the officers that there was no need to use bad language, the HOT officer responded, “I can do whatever the fuck I want.”
Lieutenant Michael Lux was reached out to for comment, and he responded that he takes these complaints seriously. Lux asked for the names of the victims, so he could investigate matters, but he questioned the claims’ legitimacy when names were not given. Both Turtle and Earl explicitly state that they are afraid of retaliation by these hostile officers. Told this information, Lt. Lux referred me over to file a complaint with Internal Affairs, but Lt. Lux has assured that officers have been told to stand down to the residents of West Moreno Avenue.
Colorado Springs City Council President Richard Skorman says that he has mixed feelings on the passage of this ordinance amendment, “ We don’t want to punish people and take away their last resort for hope [RVs and a place to park], but we are making an effort with this particular group to find them a home.” Skorman worked in conjunction with councilman Geislinger to delay its passage from Jan. 8 to June 1. Skorman states that he doesn’t want to leave these RV inhabitants with no place to go, but local business owners have complained about the residents throwing trash onto West Moreno as well as dumping raw sewage into the city drainage system, hence his mixed feelings on the issue.
Current residents insist that RVs that have already left the area are responsible for the trash and raw sewage drainage into Fountain Creek. Many residents insist that they are trying to live a peaceful lifestyle and stay out of the public eye. But with the construction of the new Olympic Museum, these inhabitants feel that the pressure for them to relocate has increased, yet the remaining residents insist that they have no place else to go. Many suffer from ailments of chronic homelessness with extreme and debilitating mental and physical disabilities.
Check out the next edition of the Catalyst, published April 26, to dive deeper into the struggles of these RV inhabitants lives and how the city ordinance is making them that much more difficult.