- Associated Press - Saturday, December 3, 2016

DURANGO, Colo. (AP) - La Plata County is working to keep a Durango-area homeless camp clean and safe.

The La Plata Sheriff’s Office has started an educational campaign with homeless residents to keep encampments clean, The Durango Herald reported (bit.ly/2fL4zyS).

Lt. Ed Aber, who started the effort, said the sheriff’s office has told residents that camps will be left alone as long as they are kept clean and campers obey the law.

The effort comes after a May 2015 incident where a bear attacked homeless campers in the county. The high-profile attack led Aber to try to teach homeless residents about good practices to keep wildlife away.

Also helping promote clean campsites is Manna Soup Kitchen, which started exchanging services at the kitchen for trash bags brought in from campsites.

“Everybody has the right to a clean environment to protect them from the elements and the animals,” said Jason Cloudt, Manna Soup Kitchen’s garden manager and volunteer coordinator.

Aber said the combination of the sheriff’s efforts and Manna’s program has had a marked reduction on trash at homeless camps. In spring 2015, there were 13 pickup truckloads and in spring 2016 there were only eight truckloads.

“There is a relationship being built, and there is trust being built. They are trying to police themselves,” he said.

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Information from: Durango Herald, https://www.durangoherald.com

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