Local police report increase in incidents involving homeless this winter
With no shelter in Grand County, transients stay wherever they can
With freezing cold temperatures and near constant snow, spending winters in Grand County without a home or shelter is not ideal. Unfortunately, this year, law enforcement officers saw an upswing in the number of incidents and calls involving transient or homeless people.
Officers on the east side of the county reported more instances of people sleeping or staying in public restrooms, sheltered walkways of commercial buildings or turning to cars or storage units for temporary housing.
Fraser-Winter Park Police Chief Glen Trainor estimated his officers responded to 20 to 30 calls regarding transient people this winter. In previous years, he added, issues with transient people have not been common during the winter.
“Winter conditions here, if you don’t have a home, are absolutely brutal,” Trainor said. “We’ve had numerous instances this year of people sleeping in hallways of shopping centers and that kind of thing, so it’s clearly having an impact on our calls for service.”
A similar increase in the number of incidents involving transient people occurred in Granby this winter, according to Granby Police Chief Jim Kraker.
The U.S. Post Office in Granby also saw a number of people staying in the building’s lobby this winter, which is open 24 hours, and had to remove trash cans from the area because of people using them as restrooms.
“We removed trash cans from the 24-hour lobby in Granby due to repeated acts of vandalism,” Marcela Rivera, strategic communications specialist for the U.S. Postal Service, said in a statement. “We have asked for increased police patrols and are also asking the public to report any vagrancy and vandalism they might see after hours.”
The trend doesn’t seem to be impacting the west side of the county as much, however, since Kremmling Police Chief Jaime Lucas reported no instances involving transient people in the last six months.
Lucas said he suspects the difference is partially due to Kremmling’s location.
“We have been very fortunate that we have not experienced those problems like other jurisdictions or towns,” Lucas said. “We are the farthest west town. (…) Plus, we’re a small community, so there’s just not very many places a person like that can just plop down and stay and stay comfortably.”
The Fraser Valley and Granby areas could be experiencing the trend as a consequence of recent population growth or their proximity to train and bus stations, but both Trainor and Kraker noted that a lack of affordable housing definitely contributes.
“Some of it is the price of housing not being proportionate to wages,” Kraker said. “So, we try not to approach the problem as a criminal issue, but more of a societal issue.”
Trainor agreed, saying the usual protocol in cases where officers are dealing with homeless people is to try and help them find the resources they need. Since there is no shelter in Grand County, he said officers can help people find a temporary room or get transportation elsewhere.
“We’ll try to find them a place at the YMCA or somewhere,” he said. “We usually try to warn them (first) and have them move along.”
If there are instances of recurring issues with the same person, a co-occurring crime or if someone is on trespassing on private property, then officers will make an arrest.
The Granby Police Department also administers a good samaritan account, which is funded by Changes Thrift Store in Fraser, which can help people pay for temporary needs, such as food, transportation or a hotel room. Kraker said more people took advantage of the fund this year than previously.
“It’s not a cure for anybody, but it’s a short-term fix and oftentimes helps a person get on their way,” Kraker said. “This is a hard place to be stuck at as a transient because of our weather and lack of resources.”
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