‘Guest commentary: Boulder enables homelessness’ from the Daily Camera 8/1/2009

By Max R. Weller

See it here and copied below:

My opinion as a homeless Boulderite may surprise many, but here it is nonetheless: Boulder does too much for its single adult (not yet senior) homeless people — far beyond a necessary minimal level of emergency shelter, food, medical care, and clothing — and this “enabling” culture not only has a negative impact on the community as a whole, it fails to serve the homeless people in the long run.

It must be pointed out that many of these homeless men and women receive SSDI/SSI monthly disability benefits, Medicaid, food stamps, etc. Many of them patronize the Carriage House homeless people’s day center for case management and Boulder Shelter for the Homeless, which runs a transitional living program and provides morning services all year in addition to providing emergency overnight sheltering during the winter season.

In addition, many homeless people apply for subsidized housing programs (there are several) and get on a first-come, first-serve waiting list.

As for medical care, the typical homeless Boulderite can use Clinica Campesina (People’s Clinic) for free or at greatly reduced cost or just present himself at Boulder Community Hospital’s ER. There are a couple of local churches that provide assistance to pay for prescriptions, if the homeless person lacks Medicaid coverage. Unfortunately, too many homeless people seek out doctors to obtain prescription narcotic painkillers, which they then sell on the streets for a profit. Sometimes, the phony patients will even have an ambulance respond to take them to the ER in hopes of obtaining free narcotics.

Boulder puts out so much free food for homeless people that it’s no wonder most are overweight. Besides the breakfast available for everyone at Boulder Shelter every morning 365 days a year, there is Carriage House for lunch and snacks Monday through Friday, various churches feeding during the evenings Monday through Thursday, St. Thomas Aquinas food bank open for breakfast and grocery bags of food to go Monday through Saturday, various churches which rotate feeding lunch every Sunday, a meal in the Justice Center parking lot Sunday night, and others. No wonder, either, that food stamp benefits are superfluous in all of this bounty and sometimes wind up being sold for 50 cents on the dollar. The fat and happy homeless of Boulder simply cannot eat it all.

Emergency shelter is an important consideration during the cold winters in Colorado, and Boulder Shelter allows an individual homeless person 90 nights of sheltering during the winter season from Oct. 1 through Apr. 30. An Emergency Warming Center coalition of several churches exists to handle the overflow when Boulder Shelter’s capacity is exceeded. If priority were given to homeless Boulderites over Denver transients, the overflow would be eased considerably; Denver has adequate facilities to take care of its own homeless people. Boulder County Cares provides camping gear during the winter, and most of my own gear I’ve picked up after it was just thrown away by homeless campers. So much of it that I’ve donated some of it back to BCC.

Too much free clothing is distributed, and some homeless people simply throw away their dirty clothes rather than use the free washers and dryers at Boulder Shelter, available 365 days a year. Deacon’s Closet might reconsider being open every Thursday, and cut back to once or twice a month.

Boulder’s parks must be made family-friendly once again, and a big step to accomplishing that would be to make public intoxication (in and of itself) a municipal offense. There is no constitutional right for the homeless to be drunk and stupid in public. Write ’em up or take them to the Addiction Recovery Center, which should be a lockdown detox facility like the one in Denver.

Panhandlers should be required to buy a business license and be subject to regulation by the city as are many businesses. They would almost all vanish if this were to become law, despite their claims that panhandling or posing as musicians is “work.”

Yes, these are just a few examples of how Boulder enables homeless people to continue in that lifestyle with no thought to the future. I think it’s a dirty shame, and not compassionate at all.


Addendum 10/20/2015: In the six years and counting since this was published, Boulder has continued down the same road at an ever-increasing speed. Consider the 1175 Lee Hill “permanent supportive care” facility, a collaboration between Boulder Shelter for the Homeless and Boulder Housing Partners, and the Ready to Work “transitional living” program run by Bridge House (formerly known as Carriage House); both are taxpayer-funded and serve no useful purpose, once you strip away the do-gooders’ empty rhetoric and critically examine client outcomes.

Meanwhile, there are still hundreds of homeless people on the streets here, over half of them transients from Denver and elsewhere . . .

I favor giving each one of them the $5 bus ticket on RTD back to Denver, along with a couple of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and a bottle of water to-go.


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