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Special meeting results in no clear path forward as Purple Cliffs encampment in Durango closes

A crowd gathers outside of Durango City Hall for a break from the over 3 hour special meeting held on September 29, 2022.
Sarah Flower
A crowd gathers outside of Durango City Hall for a break during the special meeting about housing for Purple Cliffs residents held on September 29, 2022.

La Plata County officials are closing the Purple Cliffs encampment this weekend with no clear plan to house people elsewhere.

On Wednesday, September 28, Durango City Council announced a special meeting Thursday morning with an agenda item to consider a temporary managed camp at La Plata County Fairgrounds. The proposal drew quick criticism on social media, and La Plata County officials issued a statement on their Facebook page denying any such plan.

At the meeting Thursday morning a shoulder-to-shoulder crowd in council chambers spilled into the hallway. City manager Jose Madrigal explained that the idea of temporary use of the fairgrounds came from a work group of municipalities and agencies familiar with unhoused populations and other stakeholders in the area, acknowledging that given the county's position, this would no longer be considered.

The special meeting instead became a venue for the public and city officials to express concerns about the issue of homelessness in and around Durango.

Before city council went into executive session, councilors unanimously agreed to move forward on discussions for a temporary camp, with some stating they didn’t want it near schools, businesses or residential areas. What will happen to the residents of Purple Cliffs remains unclear.

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