Boulder, CO’s homeless shelter/services industry turns its back on “Tiny Houses”

A LITTLE MORE ACCOUNTABILITY, A LITTLE LESS ENABLING

By Max R. Weller

Read the Guest Opinion in the Daily Camera written by Greg Harms, executive director of Boulder Shelter for the Homeless. A reminder: More than half of the single men and women housed in the emergency overnight dorms at this facility are transients from Denver and elsewhere, with no ties to Boulder, and BSH is also one of the few shelters in America nowadays which accepts registered sex offenders.

Copied here in its entirety:

Much has been written about the homeless deaths in Boulder in 2014. The Camera deemed it the third-biggest news story of the year. In 2014, eight homeless people died “unattended,” meaning they were found outside. But these eight people were only part of the story. A total of 23 people were remembered at the annual Boulder homeless memorial in late December. Some of these individuals passed away in the hospital, some in hospice, some at friends’ homes and some at BOHO or the Boulder Shelter. The reality is, however, that the total number of homeless people who died in Boulder in 2014, to the best of our ability to count them, was about the same as it has been in past years.

When anyone dies prematurely, it is sad; especially for those of us who work hard to try to prevent these deaths. Local service providers strive to offer the best combination of life-saving and stability programs possible but we have limited resources and we cannot force services on anyone. Nor would we want to. Years of experience has shown us that there is no substitute for individual motivation as the basis for change.

Recently, a guest opinion expressed ” A plea for year-round shelter for the homeless” (Daily Camera, Dec. 31). Currently, from October to May, the Boulder Shelter for the Homeless provides 160 nightly beds for those without a place to sleep. Likewise, BOHO, utilizing faith-based buildings, offers overflow accommodations during the same winter months.

Although it may not be well publicized, there are also several summer sheltering options for the homeless in Boulder. The Boulder Shelter provides 65 beds a night during the summer through its Transition and First Step Programs. In addition, BOHO has been providing two summer sheltering options in conjunction with several faith organizations; one of which is exclusively for homeless women.

It is true that all of these summer programs have some basic requirements for admission and they are not the kind of drop-in services that are available during the winter months. However, these requirements are in place not only to provide needed safety and structure for clients but also to help prevent Boulder from becoming an even more attractive place for people traveling in the summer.

The Boulder Shelter for the Homeless has significantly expanded services over the last few years. These additions, however, have focused on permanent solutions for homeless people (like the newly-opened facility at 1175 Lee Hill) rather than adding more temporary shelter beds. This approach is in accordance with national evidence-based practices and with The Boulder County 10-Year Plan to Address Homelessness.

Homelessness is a complex issue. Providing services to this population is also complex. I believe our community does a good job at providing an array of appropriate services for our poorest neighbors. Can we improve and expand on these offerings? Of course, but we want to do our best to minimize any unintended consequences and focus our limited resources on the programs that are the most effective for our clients and the community.

Greg Harms is executive director of the Boulder Shelter for the Homeless.

> My online comment following this piece on the DC website follows:

See what progressive cities across the country are doing in re homelessness: http://www.shareable.net/blog/11-tiny-house-villa…

Nary a peep about building a “Tiny House Community” from Boulder, CO’s homeless shelter/services industry.

Consider that each one of the 31 units for single adults in the Housing First project at 1175 Lee Hill cost well over $200,000 — but OM Build in Madison, WI can turn out a tiny house with the same amenities for only $5,000!

Really, do the people running things here want to “end homelessness” or not?

I might add that Mr. Harms has over 90,000 reasons to support the status quo; these reasons being dollars in his annual salary . . .

harmsmartens

Greg Harms (C), Betsey Martens (R), and facilitator with mic (L) ready to cut off public discussion of the 1175 Lee Hill project.

At times, fighting this battle gets very lonely and discouraging for the Homeless Philosopher. I can be as stubborn as anyone on the other side, however, even without the incentive of Big Money.

> Addendum: BSH recently posted the folowing blurb on their Facebook page:

By the numbers, here’s what the Shelter accomplished last year. Ah, but it’s what those numbers represent, lives saved and changed, that really matters.
• Provided 39,904 bed nights of shelter
• Provided 4,380 bed nights of transitional housing
• Provided over 8,000 bed nights of permanent supportive housing (in partnership with Boulder Housing Partners)
• Made over 3,800 contacts of street outreach (Boulder County Cares)
• Served 1,204 unduplicated clients
• Served over 95,000 hot meals
• Provided over 15,000 morning service contacts

It’s more funny math, and I had to respond:

“Provided over 15,000 morning service contacts” you say? I know something about this, because I’m frequently standing outside at 6AM. NEVER have I seen more than a dozen or so others waiting with me (and usually a lot fewer) — a far cry from the average of 40+ it would require to make a total of 15,000 over the course of a year. I don’t mind being counted for a hot meal that I NEVER eat in the morning, but I object to imaginary people coming to BSH for morning services.

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