Here’s a better model for Boulder, CO to follow

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By Max R. Weller

Way back in March of 2009, the Daily Camera’s Virtual Editorial Board addressed the issue of consolidating nonprofits in our city to better serve the homeless population. I wish I could retrieve that opinion piece from the DC’s archives, and copy it here today, because a guy calling himself Doc_Brinkley offered a proposal for a Homeless Services Campus in Boulder, CO — operating at the current site of Boulder Shelter for the Homeless at 4869 N. Broadway. Another of the points Doc made was the need to prioritize services for Boulder County’s own homeless people.

If that sounds familiar, it should; Doc_Brinkley is the screen name I used on the Daily Camera website at that time. Unfortunately, I’m not savvy enough to find this editorial, it’s hidden so deep I know not where . . .

This was the link to it at one time: http://www.dailycamera.com/news/2009/mar/18/virtual-editorial-board-consolidating-nonprofits/

At any rate, consider the Austin (TX) Resource Center for the Homeless a.k.a. ARCH. Quoting from their website below:

The Austin Resource Center for the Homeless (ARCH) serves as the first point of entry into the homeless social service system for many of Austin’s adults experiencing homelessness, whether for the first time and also those who have been living on the streets for years. The ARCH is designed to assess client needs, provide information on how and where to access services, and meet the basic emergency needs of homeless adults. The ARCH also provides sleeping areas for homeless people to rest, day or night, and a Day Resource Center to get out of the elements during the day. More than 6,000 homeless men and women utilized the ARCH in 2012-2013, averaging approximately 423 individuals each day in the Day Resource Center and sleeping more than 200 men each night.

The building, which opened in 2004, includes a large common-use room, public showers, public restrooms, storage lockers, laundry facilities, a computer room, study spaces, and offices for various nonprofit organizations that provide a direct service to the homeless clients at the ARCH. A clinic, located on the first floor, provides health care and specialized services for the population. The second floor houses a large commercial kitchen and dining room that serves 100 meals each night to clients staying at the shelter. Located on the third floor is the 100-bed shelter with a rooftop terrace opening up to a panoramic view of the city.

Numerous co-located agencies make the ARCH a one-stop shop where clients can receive support for mental health, medical, legal, employment and other needs, all under one roof.  Clients are encouraged to enroll in transitional services focused on helping them move from homelessness to affordable housing.

By comparison, Boulder’s nonprofits are taking baby steps toward greater efficiency in the local homeless shelter/services industry. Too many competing egos at the newly-formed Boulder Homeless Services Collaborative — and they only cooperate to the extent they do because of great behind-the-scenes pressure from those with influence in the community. Even worse, BHSC has sites scattered all over our city rather than “a one-stop shop where clients can receive support for mental health, medical, legal, employment and other needs, all under one roof” as ARCH provides.

BTW, we should also pay heed to what OM Build in Madison, WI is doing with Tiny Houses for the homeless.

Austin, TX and Madison, WI are two truly progressive cities in re homelessness (and there are others around the country). Boulder, CO has so far to go in catching up that it’s embarrassing.

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Tiny Houses in Madison, WI

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