A proposed ban on creekside camping, which has divided the Colorado Springs City Council, will be the focus of a town hall Thursday.

The public event will be from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at City Hall, 107 N. Nevada Ave., with a presentation by city officials and a chance to comment.

The council is to vote on the proposal June 26.

Councilmen Tom Strand and Merv Bennett proposed the ordinance last month in an effort to reduce E. coli and trash in the city's waterways.

They called it a public health imperative amid increasing scrutiny by state and federal regulators of the area's surface water quality.

But advocates for homeless people, as well as the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, deem it a misguided approach to addressing homelessness.

The proposal would affect countless homeless campers, and the ACLU has suggested the city instead focus on addressing the area's affordable housing shortage.

The proposal would ban camping within 100 feet of the city's waterways, including Fountain and Monument creeks, as well as concrete drainage ditches. A violator would face up to $2,500 in fines and 180 days in jail, on probation or both.

A city law already bans camping on public property.

The difference would be in enforcement. Under the proposed law, police would not have to ensure that shelter beds are open before issuing a summons, said city spokeswoman Kim Melchor.

But whether homeless people are to blame for the waterways' unhealthy E. coli levels remains uncertain.

A study about 10 years ago found that migratory birds were responsible for the elevated bacteria, which can cause diarrhea, abdominal pain and fever, as well as kidney failure and death in extreme cases.

Subsequent research suggested urban and suburban areas, livestock and wastewater treatment systems may be responsible as well.

A project is underway to narrow the possible sources of contamination. But it will not focus on the biochemistry of the fecal matter, leaving unanswered the question of whether homeless campers are to blame.

Public safety net reporter

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