COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Store owners and customers around a Safeway grocery store in Colorado Springs are complaining about "squatters" who park in old RVs and other ramshackle vehicles for long periods of time.
Several people tell KRDO NewsChannel 13 that the vehicles are eyesores and that the residents often leave trash or debris near the shopping area at Circle Drive and Galley Road in Colorado Springs.
A viewer notified KRDO NewsChannel 13 of the situation, but by late Monday afternoon two of three groups squatting in the parking lot had left after being confronted by a property manager.
Patrick Ellis, one of the vehicle owners who parked there, says he's frustrated because he's down on his luck and is being hassled by people who don't understand his predicament.
"My wife and I got kicked out of our apartment a few days ago," he said. "The owner didn't know the manager was letting us live there. We had to pack up all of our stuff into our car and trailer and leave. Then my car broke down and I parked here until I can fix it. I plan to be gone by the end of the day."
However, Ellis said he's unemployed and is looking for a place to live, so he may be parking elsewhere.
Richard Schimmelpfenneg, a store customer, said one RV has been parked in front of the Safeway for several weeks.
"I saw someone come out of there once with a panhandling sign," he said. "And no one is there during the day. So they must be sleeping there at night. Just another example of the neighborhood going downhill with homeless people, panhandling, crime, you name it."
A Safeway manager said squatters have been a constant problem for several years, making customers uncomfortable.
"That RV, they told me they needed a part that would take a few days to get," the manager said. "Then they got the part and it didn't work. They said they needed a new part. So we'll see. All I can do is call the police and have the people moved, or have the vehicles towed."
Carla Franco and a friend have been homeless since leaving Pueblo a year ago, and said she arrived at the parking lot last weekend, hoping to stay out of trouble and avoid disturbing anyone.
"I have to move every day," she said. "If I don't, I'll get hassled by police, or by property owners or property managers. I have two RVs that I tow along with me, but they're old and aren't good to live in for a long time. I get a motel room when I can afford one. But it's hard to find places to live, with rent being so high."
Franco and her friend also left the lot Monday.
Devon Glenn, a nearby property manager, said he tries to be sympathetic to the squatters' situation.
"But a store parking lot isn't an appropriate place for it," he said. "I can understand if you need a place to stay, staying one night. But not for several days or several weeks. When one vehicle leaves, another one comes."