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Pueblo Mayor addresses ‘homelessness’ in city following 13 Investigates report

PUEBLO, Colo. (KRDO) -- A week after 13 Investigates shed light on what's believed to be a homeless camp in the Fountain Creek area of Pueblo, the city is taking action to address those struggling within the city.

In our initial report, 13 Investigates showed drone footage obtained by a citizen showing several people in the Fountain Creek area, just a few yards away from a strip mall and the Pueblo Mall. At one point, two men are seen shooting guns at the drone.

Now, 13 Investigates has obtained more drone footage showing apparent drug use right next to Highway 50 and N. Elizabeth St.

Warning, the video below shows behavior that might be upsetting for some.

After being sent the second set of footage, 13 Investigates shared the video with Mayor Nick Gradisar and asked if that kind of behavior is allowed within city-owned spaces.

"Of course, it is not allowed. Those people have been moved out. Public Works gave them some notice that they had to vacate those premises and I assume that they have been or will be vacated," Gradisar explained. "We don't allow that type of activity or camping in those types of public areas."

When asked about homelessness in the city, Gradisar called it a "complex issue" with some asking for help and others consistently saying they don't want it.

Gradisar also said what's happening in Pueblo isn't comparable to what other cities are experiencing.

"As I look at the situation and compare it to other communities that I've been in, I don't think we've got that big of a problem with homelessness," said Gradisar. "If you've been been to downtown Denver and seen them camped on the streets, that's when I say there is a big problem. We don't have that happening here."

When asked about the previous other drone footage, Gradisar claimed that didn't reflect the trail in its entirety.

"On Monday, I rode that trail myself and from that trail, you cannot even see those camps that are behind King Soopers," Gradisar said. "It doesn't really depict what you can see from the trial and the public spaces."

Still, he did acknowledge that a few yards away from the more scenic view lies, what he referred to, as homeless camps.

Fountain Creek, North Pueblo

According to Gradisar, the city is in the process of developing a "comprehensive plan" for addressing homelessness. He said it includes clean-ups two times a year and getting individuals living in these camps in touch with non-profits who can provide resources.

"The conditions are obviously deplorable down there. Why anyone would want to live there is beyond me, but there are people who choose to do that," Gradisar said. "I am hoping that they will take advantage of the services the City of Pueblo provides for homeless individuals."

Gradisar said he thinks his administration has done a lot to help the unhoused citizens of Pueblo.

"We've got a permanent shelter now that we didn't have when I became Mayor. We've got some permanent transitional housing, and we instituted programs to try and put the homeless people to work picking up trash," Gradisar said.

However, Gradisar said he believes it's not the city's responsibility to provide services directly to the unhoused citizens of Pueblo.

Rather, he believes the city should be connecting them with organizations like non-profits who can and are helping out.

When asked what role he expects the Pueblo Police Department to play in addressing the issues and potential public drug use, he mentioned the clean-ups and how the issue isn't just criminal or city-related, it affects everyone.

"This is not just a police department issue. This is a community issue," Gradisar said. "How do we deal with homeless individuals, and how do we get those individuals who are in that kind of distress the treatment that can help them and can change their life situation."

13 Investigates reached out to the Pueblo Police Department to comment on the video and what they believe was happening in the video.

The department provided the following statement:

"This certainly depicts what appears to be the use of illegal narcotics however, public use would only occur if a person can view the usage from a place they are permitted to be, either public or private property.  An aerial view denotes the viewer does not have the right to view activity such as this which may represent other violations."

Pueblo Police Department

When asked if the individual who filmed the footage did any wrongdoing, the PPD gave a similar response when asked in our first report. According to police, the video was taken on public property and it wasn't in a no-fly zone.

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Sean Rice

Sean is reporter with the 13 Investigates team. Learn more about him here.

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