Cleaning up communities is hard. But Mesa County commissioners just unanimously approved the first reading of a new city ordinance that will allow the county to remove and fine anyone illegally living on county lands or easements. They told KREX, “This is not an ordinance to try to go out and fine whoever we can find, but rather an enforcement mechanism to help us get people who are, you know, camping on county lands, on county right of way. We want to get them to a better place.”

Cleaning up homelessness is a messy business though. Most grand junction residents get that. One resident told us, “I have mixed feelings about it, obviously, for people who don’t have the means to have a home and are homeless. It’s difficult to find a place to stay and feel safe.”

County officials say the goal is, “to be able to give law enforcement the tools they need to help clean up mesa county.” A sentiment that John echoed, “I do think that there needs to be some enforcement and some strength behind that enforcement because otherwise you ask people to leave and they’re back in 10 minutes, you know?”

Commissioner Davis told me he doesn’t want mesa county to mirror other communities who ignore the growing homeless crisis, “We’re kind of drawing a line in the sand. We’ve seen other communities like San Francisco who have kind of gone the other way and it kind of degrades the community.”

Mesa county’s been working in recent months to clean up abandoned encampments, many along our rivers and county roads.  The idea is that revenue from fines could help keep county spaces clean. But if we fine people or force them to move, where will they go? Commissioner Davis told us, “Here in mesa county, we have a lot of nonprofits that have temporary housing, long-term housing for homeless that not only provide housing but provide services so that they can get back up on their feet.”

How well it works remains to be seen, but for now, the county believes it’s a small step in the right direction. This ordinance will only affect county lands, but they are hoping in the future to be able to work with other agencies like b-l-m to clean up more of the western slope as well. The final hearing for this ordinance will be on December 20th.