(Also submitted as a Guest Opinion to the Daily Camera).
By Max R. Weller
Once again, the benighted attorney who wants to enable homeless camping by the worst-behaved transients inside the city limits of Boulder, CO has written another letter-to-the-editor of the Daily Camera. And once again, I’m here to refute his opinion, based on my own experiences as a homeless camper in Boulder and its environs during the past five years.
I’ve never gotten a ticket for illegal camping, nor for any of the other petty crimes commonly committed by members of the homeless rat packs (such as having an open container of alcohol or smoking marijuana in public). Central Park has long since been given over to these characters during the daytime, and Bridge House supports them and serves as a base from which the bums can wander over to Pearl Street Mall and University Hill, as well as Boulder Creek Path and Boulder Public Library. I haven’t patronized Bridge House, the so-called homeless people’s day center (actually a firetrap which can hold only 25 occupants per order of the Boulder Fire Marshal) in the past four years, and I rarely visit BPL, because I continue to identify with the mainstream of society and conform my behavior to ordinary standards of decency, which are not to be found among unwashed transients from Denver and elsewhere who have descended on our city like locusts. 80% of all other homeless people (my estimate) are likewise good folks, who find themselves in trying circumstances for a variety of reasons, and most will be on the streets only for a month or so. It’s the chronically homeless Bad Actors — the 20% who cause almost all of the problems and consume almost all of the resources — who have a high profile in the public eye and have caused public policy to become more restrictive. As far as I’m concerned, Bridge House ought to be shut down as a public nuisance, and transients without photo ID showing a Boulder County address should be given the $5 bus tickets on RTD back to Denver. Currently, they are being catered to far beyond the minimal level of emergency sheltering/services necessary to keep them from freezing to death on the streets in the wintertime.
I support every one of the laws enacted by the City of Boulder, including the ban on public camping within the city limits. (What’s more, I’ll take this opportunity to again urge the passage of a municipal ordinance against Public Intoxication, which would be another tool that law enforcement could use to limit the bums’ misbehavior). As bad as things are now in the daytime at Central Park and elsewhere, it would be far worse if camping were permitted there at night; numbers of transients would quickly increase, as would the numbers of problems caused by them. It’s a most family-unfriendly place now; who in their right minds wants to see it made still worse?
Having said that, I’ll point out that a well-behaved homeless camper (or two) can readily gain the permission of private property owners inside Boulder to stay overnight; I’ve done so, myself. It has only become a problem for everyone when half-a-dozen or more drunken idiots show up uninvited, and want to party all night, yell and fight, and trash their surroundings. Then, the property owner has no choice but to “evict” all of us. A few of the bums followed me from one spot to another for 2 1/2 years, before I finally shook them off back in October of 2010. They still prowl around sometimes, looking for stuff they can steal from other homeless people . . .
More to the point, homeless campers can simply leave the city limits and find a place to stay at nighttime — taking care to avoid Open Space, where camping is also prohibited. One or two at a spot, being sober and quiet and respectful of their surroundings (whether public or privately-owned), will be able to enjoy a good night’s sleep. The only times I’ve been contacted by Boulder County deputies, who are well aware of my presence, have been for the routine “check welfare” during really cold weather conditions. Since I’m equipped with enough camping gear to stay warm, including a minus 40 degree-rated down sleeping bag given to me by a friend (who used it during his trek to Mt. Everest), nobody needs to fear for either my safety or my comfort.
Of course, I welcome the occasional indoor vacations at a motel or in my friends’ home; troublemakers won’t be invited to enjoy such hospitality.
BOTTOM LINE: Boulder’s apologists and enablers need to stop surrendering to the bums who disrespect themselves, disrespect others, and disrespect our community. Putting it another way: just say “NO!” to Bad Behavior.