M.J. Tee, right, waits outside of the Salvation Army homeless shelter on 505 S. Weber St. for it to open for the night Friday February 5, 2016. Tee who is from New Mexico has been homeless since October. CAROL LAWRENCE, THE GAZETTE
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M.J. Tee, right, waits outside of the Salvation Army homeless shelter on 505 S. Weber St. for it to open for the night Friday February 5, 2016. Tee who is from New Mexico has been homeless since October. CAROL LAWRENCE, THE GAZETTE

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A newly formed coalition wants Colorado Springs leaders to reconsider or repeal several ordinances amid fears they criminalize being homeless.

The Coalition for Compassion and Action, which includes several churches and nonprofit organizations, formed to advocate for the city's homeless population, said Carrie Baatz, community organizing coordinator with The Independence Center, a nonprofit helping people with disabilities. 

The coalition's first target: The passed ordinance banning people from sitting or lying on downtown sidewalks.

It is planning a "sit-in" to protest the ordinance on April 9 - the day Colorado Springs police plan to start enforcing the law, Baatz said.

Other workgroups with the coalition are focused on "education and outreach" on homeless issues to local business and city leaders, while another group wants to help address affordable housing.

"We really want to show our city leaders that the community does not support laws that criminalize people that have to survive without a home," Baatz said.

The group formed after passage of the watered-down sit-lie ordinance, which drew stiff opposition from the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado amid claims it unfairly targeted people who are impoverished or homeless.

After months of contentious public meetings, the ordinance was renamed the Pedestrian Access Act and its penalties were softened - notably, by doing away with jail time and reducing fines.

The ordinance passed in February and prohibits sitting, kneeling, reclining or lying on sidewalks and other rights-of-way during certain hours in parts of downtown and Old Colorado City.

Officers must issue a written warning before issuing tickets. Citations can lead to probation, a maximum $500 fine or both.

Despite the revisions, homeless advocates and the ACLU continued to oppose the law.

Baatz said several churches and organizations have joined the coalition, including People's Access to Homes, which Baatz helps organize.

"It's almost like this ordinance has awoken a sleeping giant that way," Baatz said.

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Contact Jakob Rodgers: 476-1654

Twitter: @jakobrodgers

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