Boulder, CO’s do-gooders enable misery and death of the homeless (redux)

(Originally published on 6/16/2014)

By Max R. Weller

Isabel McDevitt, executive director of Bridge House

Read about the latest homeless death here in Boulder in the Daily Camera; a subsequent DC report identifies the man as 27-year-old Daniel Kitlitz. Quoting from the original article:

A homeless man estimated to be between 25 and 35 years old was found dead early Saturday a short distance from the Pearl Street Mall.

This marks the fifth homeless person to be found dead in Boulder since the beginning of April.

This is where Ms. McDevitt jumps in with her two cents:

According to homeless advocate Isabel McDevitt, executive director of Boulder’s Bridge House, the death of yet another homeless person is a reminder that a solution is needed to the city’s current lack of year-round sheltering and affordable housing.

“I think it’s shocking that in a community as progressive and with so many resources, that we literally have people dying on our streets,” she said. “At a minimum, we need to have more options for people who are living on the street and vulnerable. The solution isn’t just more shelter, though. I think we need to have a comprehensive, long-term strategy.”

“I would propose a housing continuum,” she added, “with many options for people outside of emergency shelter — permanent affordable housing, mental health and substance abuse treatment. So we need to be thinking beyond shelters, but we certainly need that, too, because the reality is, building housing takes a while and is very difficult.”

A couple of online comments stand out, and are copied below:

1) wildflowerseed: I am very sorry to hear that a fellow human being has lost his life. However, I do not feel personally responsible for it.

As someone who generally falls into the very, very progressive category, I find it “shocking” that Ms. McDevitt feels so free to chastise the community at large over this situation. I am politically pro substanc-abuse treatment and metal-health programs, etc. But I am against being patronized or guilt-tripped into taking on moral culpability for other people’s personal decisions.

It seems clear that the majority of these deaths have been due to substance abuse, perhaps coupled with the difficulties of life on the streets. Sad? Yes. Preventable? Probably. My fault? Um, no.

Pointing fingers is a pretty easy way to have one pointed back in your face. What if this community decided that our homeless populations’ high death rate is because we have inadequate or unrealistic management at our highly funded shelter?

If Ms. McDevitt would like the community to support her vision of a “housing continuum,” she may want to start by initiating some dialog with a community that is already fed up to our ears with the slovenly debauchery that has become the norm in so many of our beloved public spaces.

No one will ever solve their drinking or substance or housing or mental health problems by avoiding reality and personal responsibility. Quite frankly, I am not staying awake at night worried about folks who don’t even bother to worry about themselves. I don’t care if they live their lives differently than I do, but please don’t ask me to finance it or to adjust my expectations of how a city park should be used. I would rather see funding focused on people who are actually in the midst of a personal crisis that they are attempting to solve, but need some community support to do so.

If anything, our community has a responsibility to cease enabling substance abuse–in particular, alcoholism–throughout our public spaces, because (as Ms. McDevitt pointed out) “we literally have people dying on our streets.”

I give a lot of money and time to various charities. My funding is limited. If I have the choice between spending my money on the Red Cross, or on a group of guys who have decided that drumming and drinking are their lives’ calling, I am going with the one that actually saves thousands of innocent lives every year.

So please keep that in mind next time you speak to the Daily Camera, Ms. McDevitt. 

2) such_a_good_day: Ms. McDevitt lives in a 4000 sq ft $1,300,000 house on top of Mt Sanitas…If she is so concerned for the homeless, she could house a few with her….what a hypocrite. 

Here’s my take on the situation:

Any homeless adult who comes to Boulder, CO is fed for free several times a day; see the list of sites for yourself. In addition, almost all homeless people apply for and receive food stamps.

Emergency overnight shelter is available from October 15th through April 15th at Boulder Shelter for the Homeless or Boulder Outreach for Homeless Overflow (dates will vary according to weather conditions).

Free blankets and clothing are provided by Boulder County Cares, the street outreach of BSH from October 15th through April 15th.

In fact, just look through RESOURCES FOR THE HOMELESS IN BOULDER, CO — one of the Pages at the top of this website.

What does it all mean? It means that a homeless person in our fair city has all of his/her needs met, and then some, in terms of survival on the streets. Any disposable income that homeless individual may have, and everybody has something to spend, can be applied to cigarettes, booze, and dope. This leads to misery and death, as we’ve seen repeatedly.

It’s the law of unintended consequences in action: inappropriate compassion is killing the homeless in Boulder, CO.

When winter comes, why not hand out bus tickets to the transients who have no ties in this city to other cities in a warmer clime? Ain’t nobody freezing to death in Miami, along the Gulf Coast, or in Arizona.

All you have to do is ask any transient you see here, “Why did you come to Boulder, CO?” The answer is because this is the place for transients to gather, from all over America.

Isabel McDevitt looks at the homeless people who come through the doors of her so-called day center, and she sees two things:

1) An opportunity for more Big Money projects to benefit only a select few of the homeless; and

2) The chance to cover herself in more glory as the Daily Camera’s go-to source in re homelessness (granted, the DC had to find a new “homeless advocate” after Jim Budd was convicted of rape and sent away for 25+ years).

The woman makes me physically ill, and so do all of the other do-gooders like her.

What can be done to improve the lives of homeless people who live in Boulder County, CO year-round? Two things occur to me:

1) Require valid photo ID showing a Boulder County address from anyone seeking homeless sheltering/services; and

2) Immediately begin construction of “tiny homes” to accommodate Boulder County’s own homeless single adults. See just one report on this growing movement in truly progressive cities across the country, Homeless People Say  These 99-Square-Foot Tiny Houses Are ‘Life Changing’ from Reuters via the Huffington Post.

In other words — let’s take care of our own ASAP. The fact is, with the millions and millions of $$$ being squandered by the local nonprofits (consider the 31-unit, $6 million Housing First project at 1175 Lee Hill), every single homeless adult in Boulder could already have been housed.

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