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Unique legal issue delays eviction of homeless camp in Colorado Springs

Landowner now responsible for evicting campers

Legal issue delays homeless camp eviction in Colorado Springs

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - In an interesting twist to a story we told you about Wednesday, the dozens of homeless people at a camp along Fountain Creek will have to be officially evicted, despite the El Paso County Sheriff's Office posting notices for them to vacate within 48 hours.

On Thursday, the Sheriff's Office said the people at the camp, which is just southeast of Colorado Springs near East Las Vegas Street, aren't technically trespassing because Fred Martin, the owner of the property and of an adjacent business, Rocky Top Resources, gave the campers permission to live on the property a month ago.

That created a tenant-landlord relationship, and the owner now must go to court to obtain an order to have deputies force the campers out.

It was unclear Thursday whether Martin, who declined an interview, would follow through on the eviction because he may have to seek an order against the entire group of campers or against each camper individually.

It's not clear what kind of tenancy this would fall under, according to Colorado eviction laws, so we don't know what length of notice the owner will have to give the residents, although some campers said they were told they had 30 days.

Many of the campers were seen clearing out their tents and sites Thursday, and one camper said around half of the 105 campers identified have left.

Tryg Bundgaard, an advocate for the homeless, said Martin occasionally allowed homeless people to camp on the property before, and a small group was living there when Bundgaard asked for permission to allow the campers to remain.

Bundgaard said the campers promised to keep the property clean but it soon became large and concerns about trash and fires were raised.

At a news conference Thursday, the Sheriff's Office said that it began consulting with legal advisors about the situation shortly after posting eviction notices throughout the camp.

Sheriff Bill Elder said it's the first time his department has faced this situation.

Bundgaard said he believes the county is pressuring Martin to evict the campers because Martin is having a zoning dispute with the county, but the Sheriff's Office said the zoning issues are separate from the camping issue.

So what's next?

Bundgaard said he will explore the possibility of someone leasing the property from Martin and allowing the remaining campers to stay.  He also wants to help Martin through the sticky situation that resulted from Martin's willingness to help the homeless.

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