JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – A man who said he has worked his way off the streets said he’s suffered a setback after Jefferson County public officials want to force him out of the first home he has owned in more than 12 years. Joseph Kniss, 58, told CBS4’s Dillon Thomas his RV is the first shelter he has owned since becoming homeless more than a decade ago.
However, on Thursday morning, Kniss said he woke to a code enforcement officer telling him he wasn’t able to live in the RV at the location where he was paying to stay.
“I don’t know what else society could want from a person. I’m trying so hard to be the human being society wants me to be. And now, it is not good enough,” Kniss said. “What else does society want out of me?”
Kniss agreed to pay his landlord $200 a month to park his RV on the lot in unincorporated Jefferson County, after code enforcement in Lakewood said he could not park and live on the streets of their city. He saved money over the years to purchase the RV, with some help from the public, and renovated the interior to make it his home. He installed wood floors and decorated the interior.
“I finally found a home. I made a home. I earned a home. I created a home,” Kniss said.
Just years before, Kniss was sleeping inside of a dumpster, and sometimes in a tent. The opportunity to live on a property, pay his bills and have a shelter over his head was a great accomplishment.
However, Kniss said the code enforcement officer for Jefferson County told him he needed to leave the property he was paying rent on, and find another location to live.
“For two weeks now, I have felt like a person with a home. And now, I am being told I have to go back homeless again,” Kniss said. “I’m like, ‘Why? What am I doing wrong here? I am paying for a place. It is in unincorporated Jefferson County. The (landlord) is okay with me.’”
Jefferson County Planning Supervisor Russell Clark told CBS4 the code enforcement officer would not have responded to the property without a complaint from an existing resident in the community. Clark, unaware of the specifics of the case involving Kniss, said a county ordinance prohibits someone from living in a mobile home on a property for more than two weeks without an exception through the county.
Clark said most extended-stay situations in campers on privately owned property involve residents who have received permits to live in the campers while they complete construction on a permanent home.
Kniss told CBS4 he felt he was doing everything in his power to not rely on the community for support. He said he felt the RV being parked on the land of an owner who he pays was a way of getting off the streets and out of homelessness.
“(It is like the county is ripping my heart) right out of there. I put so much love in to this house of mine. I have never owned anything before. And, now, I own something,” Kniss said with tears in his eyes.
Kniss noted that his RV follows county standards by being licensed and operable.
Clark said the county’s laws prohibit anyone from living inside of a licensed and operable camper for more than two weeks of the year on private property not zoned for such housing. Clark said Kniss may be left with few other options than to relocate to a designated campground or a developed mobile home park if complaints continue to come in.
Kniss said he was not sure what his next move would be. However, as a man of faith, he said he hoped to continue to live a productive Christian life, one which would not lean on the assistance of the government to be possible.