Vanessa Michel, Director of Communications
DENVER – The ACLU of Colorado announced this morning that it will represent Adam Wiemold, a homeless man who was charged with illegal “camping” by Fort Collins police for sleeping in his vehicle at a designated rest area where truck drivers regularly sleep in their vehicles undisturbed by police.
“At the rest stop, Fort Collins police harass and ticket homeless people for sleeping in their cars, while leaving commercial truckers alone to sleep soundly through the night,” said ACLU of Colorado Legal Director Mark Silverstein. “This kind of selective enforcement is the essence of criminalizing homelessness.”
The Fort Collins citywide anti-camping ordinance forbids sleeping in public spaces, including inside a person’s own legally-parked vehicle. Wiemold lives out of his vehicle due to high housing costs in Fort Collins.
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“I sleep in my vehicle because, even with a full-time job, I just don’t make enough money to pay my bills and pay rent,” said Weimold. “It shouldn’t be a crime to be homeless or to simply sleep. But, in Fort Collins, it is.”
In September, a federal court of appeals ruled that the Constitution forbids cities from prosecuting homeless persons for sleeping in public places when they have no alternative. In his job at a local nonprofit, Wiemold works in a supervisory role with clients in the unhoused community. Because sleeping in a shelter with clients poses unacceptable boundary issues, he has no choice but to sleep in public spaces.
According to the city prosecutor who spoke with Wiemold, Fort Collins police have recently ramped up enforcement of the camping ban to remove “undesirables” from the rest area just off of Interstate I-25. The rest area has separate sections for cars and commercial trucks. Police are issuing “camping” citations to homeless individuals for sleeping in their cars, while ignoring the same conduct by truckers.
ACLU of Colorado recently filed a request under Colorado’s open record laws for the memorandum providing official guidance to police regarding enforcement of the camping ban. The request was denied, with city officials claiming that disclosure would be “contrary to the public interest.”
“Fort Collins has a legal obligation to disclose the official police memo that guides its officers in how they enforce the controversial ordinance that makes it a crime to sleep in public spaces,” Silverstein said. “If Fort Collins refuses to reconsider, the City risks seeing us in court on that issue, too.”
ACLU Cooperating Counsel Adam Frank, of Frank & Salahuddin LLC, has entered his appearance on behalf of Wiemold in Fort Collins Municipal Court.