A LITTLE MORE ACCOUNTABILITY, A LITTLE LESS ENABLING
By Max R. Weller
This is a TRUE tale — and further evidence that the Housing First program here in Boulder, CO is FUBAR.
Who knows what goes through the minds of Housing First program residents in their brand new apartments at 1175 Lee Hill (built at a cost of over $200,000 each)? Since this facility opened last Fall, however, I can report seeing two HF clients panhandling at the nearby corner of N. Broadway & U.S. 36. With all of the cash benefits and other social services they receive in addition to housing, you have to wonder why it’s still necessary for them to “fly a sign” as they’ve done for years previously.
The NEW 31-unit, $6 million plus Housing First project at 1175 Lee Hill in Boulder, CO
Please don’t misunderstand — this is no encroachment on me, because I gain all the support I need from passersby in an hour or two, on the days I choose to play the role of humble beggar. All that I ask from other panhandlers who wish to try their luck at this spot is to behave decently, and maintain the good will of everyone in the neighborhood as I strive to do, having lived there over seven years. Unfortunately, during that span of time there have been many Froot Loops on the corner at U.S. 36: Drunk Brian, Shouting Joe, Top Hat Hippie, at al.
Which brings us to the Native American woman who is the Housing First client I’m writing about today. (Or she was; I’m told by a source at 1175 Lee Hill that an eviction notice was recently posted on the door of her apartment). Yesterday around noon, I was eating my lunch and reading a book while sitting on the wall in front of the Mexican restaurant in the 4900 block of N. Broadway. She came along, said “Hi, Max” as she passed me, and headed out to the popular panhandling site. Within a short time, she began acting crazy . . . Trying to talk to EVERYONE who stopped for the red light, motorists and bicyclists alike, but even worse she stepped off of the concrete median into the roadway several times and held up cars after the traffic signal turned green; this is exactly what is meant by the term Aggressive Panhandling.
I yelled at her more than once, “GET OUT OF THE ROAD!”
Imagine my surprise when Housing First case manager Chris Byrne (I also obtained this name from my source mentioned above) parked his car in the bike lane next to the corner, and walked over to sit down on the median beside her. He spoke to her for about five minutes — during his first visit.
He made a second visit to the corner a short time later, for another couple of minutes of conversation.
She continued to aggressively panhandle and behave like a nut after he left, so we can logically conclude that Mr. Chris Byrne had no problem with her disrespect for passersby and the neighborhood in general.
About 1:45PM, I’d had enough of her show and went out to take over the corner. I mentioned to her that I’d seen several aggressive panhandlers be confronted by Boulder County Sheriff’s Office deputies (the corner lies just outside Boulder city limits) after complaints from passersby, and advised her to be more careful about standing in the roadway and holding up traffic through a green light. This pisses people off, understandably so, and hurts “business” for all of us, humble beggars and Froot Loops alike.
I couldn’t smell any alcohol on her breath, but it seems to me that she is probably suffering from “Wet Brain” due to her years of drinking — which is, of course, how she qualified for the Housing First program to begin with.
BUT, WHO KNEW THAT “PERMANENT SUPPORTIVE CARE” IN THE CONTEXT OF THE HOUSING FIRST PROGRAM WOULD INCLUDE ACTIVE PARTICIPATION BY A CASE MANAGER, CHRIS BYRNE, IN HIS CLIENT’S MISBEHAVIOR IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD?
What led to the eviction notice mentioned above I don’t know, but it’s likely some transgression committed on the premises at 1175 Lee Hill.
Really, donors to all of Boulder’s homeless shelter/services providers need to reconsider what it is they’re actually supporting.
As to Mr. Chris Byrne? He should be fired immediately, notwithstanding that he is also a Deacon in the Catholic Church: