By Max R. Weller
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Far be it from me to try to influence anyone (ahem!), but consider the experience of Anchorage, AK with their Housing First project which opened last December.
Profile of Housing First client — chronically homeless, single adult alcoholic/drug addict with a dual diagnosis of mental illness. There will be NO requirement that HF clients get clean and sober to be accepted into the program and allowed to reside at 1175 Lee Hill. In fact, they will be allowed to possess and consume alcohol in their apartments.
And don’t fall for the Big Lie being pushed by Housing First proponents: it saves the taxpayers money. They arrive at that conclusion using what I call funny math, in which they fail to factor in the total costs involved in such a program. At 1175 Lee Hill these will include:
1) $800,000+ to purchase the property;
2) $6 million plus to build the proposed 31 units for HF clients;
3) Ongoing costs of staffing the facility with case managers and others;
4) Ongoing costs of all of the government benefits of every kind received by HF clients;
5) Continuing outpatient medical treatment for conditions related to substance abuse;
6) More hospitalizations in some cases for the same reason;
7) Continuing costs of mental health and substance abuse counseling;
8) More costs of incarceration for some HF clients;
9) Loss of productivity from HF clients who will become permanent dependents on the social services industry;
10) Permanent loss of property tax revenues from the 1175 Lee Hill property, now owned by Boulder Housing Partners.
The list goes on . . .
So what if there might be fewer ambulance rides to the emergency room for acute alcohol poisoning? So what if there might be fewer arrests for various petty crimes? Any potential savings to taxpayers is only a drop in the bucket compared to the costs outlined above, all of which are a certainty.
And what of the negative impact of concentrating all of these homeless shelter/services facilities in one neighborhood? The HF facility will be located right next door to Boulder Shelter for the Homeless, across the street from Boulder Housing Partners, and one block away from the shelter for victims of domestic violence. Just yesterday afternoon, another drunken bum was passed out on the sidewalk in front of the newly-opened Mexican restaurant in the 4900 block of N. Broadway; residents of Dakota Ridge (including kids) walking to and from their homes had to step over him. Neither Betsey Martens nor Greg Harms — executive directors of Boulder Housing Partners and Boulder Shelter for the Homeless, respectively — seem to give a darn about the bums trashing the neighborhood. It’s been getting worse and worse over the course of the past year, and I’ve watched it on a daily basis. Never once have I seen anyone from either BHP or BSH come out to see for themselves.
Bottom line: it’s a Wet House. It has no place in a residential neighborhood, home to many families with children.