Monthly Archives: August 2016

Worst-behaved transients smacked down by Boulder City Council


By Max R. Weller

Read the Daily Camera’s report Boulder council favors permanent day shelter for homeless, upped enforcement of camping ban. Excerpt copied below:

Rich, a homeless man who asked that his last name not be used, takes a nap in front of the Boulder Public Library on Monday in Boulder.

Rich, a homeless man who asked that his last name not be used, takes a nap in front of the Boulder Public Library on Monday in Boulder. (Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer)

During a much anticipated study session on homelessness Tuesday night, the Boulder City Council offered clear collective direction on two key points.

First, the council agreed, the city should explore creating a permanent day shelter and resource center. There’s no consistent space for the homeless of Boulder to rest and to access services right now, which is hard on the homeless, hard on the churches that have to rotate responsibility for donating space and hard on the officials struggling to coordinate intake of clients in order to better understand the population.

Second, council members emphatically agreed, directing the police department in recent months to stand down on the city’s camping ban was a mistake. Boulder bans sleeping outdoors, but hasn’t criminalized it lately as much as it used to. Now, the Civic Area and Boulder Creek Path are popular camping spots, and the city’s elected representatives are fed up.

Continuing, and this is where it gets interesting:

The theoretical day shelter and resource center, Councilwoman Lisa Morzel said, would be a benefit to the community at large, but would also help satisfy the council’s growing interest in understanding which homeless people have ties to Boulder, and which do not.

With better intake and data from a one-stop shop, Morzel said, the city could finally begin to isolate the undesirables.

“We hear anecdotal issues from people, where we get a lot of transients or travelers or whatever you want to call these individuals that come in and access various services, and then the individuals from our community aren’t able to access them so easily,” she added . . .

Boulder Police Department Chief Greg Testa spoke at length to the council. He instructed his officers to lighten up significantly on enforcement of the camping ban, which one year ago was called into question when the Department of Justice found a similar ban in Boise, Idaho, was unconstitutional.

“I want us to fully enforce our camping ban,” Councilman Bob Yates told Testa. “I’ll say it again: I want us to fully enforce our camping ban.”

The council agreed. Allowing people to sleep outdoors was a mistake, Morzel said.

“Our direction to you — which I appreciate you following — was a fiasco,” she told the chief. “It was not a good thing. We’ve basically turned our public spaces into de facto camping grounds, and that is unacceptable.”

A few things have changed over the past few months, though, that suggest re-enforcement of the ban may lead to slightly different results this time around.

On July 25, the city began a pilot program to divert ticketed homeless people from jail. Those issued summonses were given the option of completing four hours of community service. If they presented evidence of that service to a judge, they went free. But 13 of the 17 involved in the program failed to even appear in court, according to the latest data. (Emphasis is mine — MRW).

It’s a program that will continue, though it’s unclear how the city can incentivize showing up for court dates.

Meanwhile, more changes are afoot inside the county courthouse. A program called Navigator began this spring, with an aim to have judges and probation officers connect homeless defendants to services — around employment, health, substance abuse and housing, among others — more quickly, then monitor their progress. Twelve cases have been completed in that program so far, which means a dozen homeless people have a path to at least be considered for housing in the future.

The biggest question entering Tuesday night is still unsettled. If Boulder is ever going to open a tiny homes village or dedicate city-owned land for legal camping, it’ll have to be decided another day . . .

Where, homeless advocates wondered on social media and in brief interviews after the meeting, will all the soon-to-be shunted Civic Area and Creek Path denizens go now?

How about transients from outside of Boulder County going back to Denver or wherever else they came from in the first place? Why not prioritize local homeless shelter / services for those who can show valid photo ID with a Boulder County address and proof of at least one year’s residency? This could reduce homeless numbers by more than half, and make it entirely possible for the current nonprofits to deal effectively with our own homeless people. It’s certainly worth a try . . .

Boulder police officers might offer those transients committing petty offenses a choice of either being cited into court here or accepting the $5 bus ticket on RTD bound for Denver (with a sack lunch to-go tossed in). My guess is that 90% would board the Flatirons Flyer (under the watchful eye of an officer).

This really is NOT rocket science, folks. Other cities are NOT as bumfuzzled as Boulder, CO — so it’s time we adopted the best practices they have used for many years.


Why does the Homeless Philosopher oppose transients from outside of Boulder County, CO?


By Max R. Weller

Over three years ago, Bridge House — which bills itself as a homeless people’s day center in downtown Boulder, and serves ANYBODY regardless of where they come from — did a survey of its clients. Read the report from the Daily Camera: Survey: More than half of Boulder homeless who sought help at center were new to city. Excerpt follows:

More than half the people who sought help at Bridge House’s new resource center for the homeless had lived in Boulder less than six months, according to data released Wednesday by the day shelter and social service agency.

The information came from intake forms filled out by 417 people who sought help at the off-site resource center between October and April and was collected by Bridge House in an effort to better understand who Boulder’s homeless population is and what services it needs.

Asked where they lived prior to becoming homeless, 31 percent said they lived in other parts of Colorado and 32 percent said they came from another state. The other 37 percent are from Boulder or Boulder County.

Asked how long they had lived in Boulder, 52 percent said less than six months. Another 38 percent had lived here more than a year.

Now we’re seeing the negative consequences all over Boulder County.

Here’s the last thing I said on the Boulder Rights Watch Facebook page, before I was blocked by one the chief apologists / enablers for the worst-behaved transients, Darren O’Connor:

I “advocate” for nonprofits here to give priority to Boulder County’s own homeless residents AND to spend their dollars wisely on projects to benefit the greatest number of those homeless men, women, and children. The FAILURE to do this should weigh on everyone’s conscience . . .

Please support me in taking care of our own FIRST, transients from elsewhere to the end of the line for available shelter / services, if any.


No accountability from Boulder Rights Watch


See this blog’s Boulder Rights Watch tag archive here. These posts tell the story of a Facebook group which consistently supports the small minority of the worst-behaved transients who drift into Boulder County, CO — to the detriment of most other homeless folks and the general public.

Worst of all, the admins and many members of this group are AFRAID of vigorous debate on the most pressing social issue of the day in our fair city: How to make life better for Boulder County’s own homeless men, women, and children. Darren O’Connor, Mike Homner, Joy Eckstine Redstone, et al want to do all of your thinking for you.

Their attitude is un-American, but so very typical of lunatic fringe groups both Left and Right.



Boulder Rights Watch blocks Homeless Philosopher


By Max R. Weller

Statement by Darren O’Connor on Facebook page of Boulder Rights Watch:

Based on Boulder Rights Watch’s Vision and Mission Statements, I have blocked Max Weller from this group. While I found he didn’t make personal attacks on individuals here, his positions consistently fail or go against our intent. While his voice in the community is appropriate, it is not so in a forum such as this where we are seeking to “lovingly address the needs of those living without a permanent place to call home.”

Vision Statement:
Our vision is a city that leads by example in recognizing the value of all community members, including our unhoused neighbors. We endeavor to tap the capabilities, talents, and experiences of Boulder’s housed and unhoused citizens to creatively and lovingly address the needs of those living without a permanent place to call home. Throughout the process, our city will acknowledge and respect the rights of everyone that collectively calls Boulder home.

Mission Statement:
To recognize and expand the rights of and respect for unhoused people and their property

Mr. O’Connor was immediately challenged by another BRW member, who shall remain anonymous here:

Member:  I’m appalled that you felt the need to block Max Weller from this forum, Darren. I thought the forum was to recognize the value of ALL community members…not just the ones that agreed with you and your opinions. Please block me, too…I do not want to be a part of such a closed-minded group.

Darren O’Connor: I’m sorry ____, but we risked losing more people by having Max’s opinions shared here (emphasis is mine — MRW), consistently in disagreement with what we are attempting to accomplish. I would be sorry to lose you, and I certainly won’t block you.

Member: Maybe because Max is telling the other side of the story, Darren. Please block me….

Darren O’Connor: You are welcome to remove yourself from the group, ____, you do not require me to take such action for you. To do so, click on the “Joined” button at the top of the page, and select “Leave Group”.

To set the record straight about BRW’s numbers: When I joined the group it had about 120+ members; during the short time I was a member, it gained several dozen more and now has 180+. I’m sure Mr. O’Connor can count just as well as he can LIE.


Attention Homes’ $12.5M boondoggle in downtown Boulder


By Max R. Weller

Read Fevered battle over plans to house Boulder’s young homeless in the Daily Camera. Excerpt copied below:

Nikki Degasperi, 23, left, shares a cigarette with Thomas Bloomer, 28, as they hang out near Boulder Creek earlier this month. Degasperi and Bloomer are

Nikki Degasperi, 23, left, shares a cigarette with Thomas Bloomer, 28, as they hang out near Boulder Creek earlier this month. Degasperi and Bloomer are both homeless in Boulder. (Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer)

. . . Though Boulder hasn’t conducted a formal study to confirm it, a general feeling persists, particularly among cops, business owners and longtime residents, that since pot was legalized, the city has attracted a new brand of homeless person: younger and sometimes unhoused by choice; more prone to drug abuse and public disruptiveness; and less tenured in town, so therefore less invested, on average, in community vitality . . .

On one of downtown’s largest remaining surface parking lots, 1440 Pine St., at the southwest corner of 15th Street, Attention Homes plans to build a long-term housing complex for 40 homeless people between the ages of 18 and 24. The project is expected to go before the Boulder Planning Board for final approval later this year.

The plot is owned by First United Methodist Church, which has agreed to dedicate it to affordable housing in perpetuity, and will be developed by Gardner Capital Development, which specializes in low-income housing through tax-credit financing.

Attention Homes would move its own offices from an old house south of the lot into the first floor of the proposed building, and offer residents on-site case management, individual counseling, employment guidance and life skills development courses. Though there would be no sobriety requirement, substance-abuse support would be available.

Residents with jobs would give 30 percent of income for rent, but Attention Homes would arrange alternative plans, including free rent in some cases, for those without work . . .

A fulfillment of the $12.5 million project’s objective — providing a few years of supportive housing for people who want to stay in Boulder, but are struggling to make living wages, complete educations, address various traumas and learn to live alone — would afford dozens with a minimum but essential luxury, Nelson said: “being able to live in the community in which they already are.”

Continuing from the article:

And skepticism around who, precisely, will be served on Pine Street has been a constant in recent months.

Per an agreement, one quarter of the residents would be referred by Boulder County’s human services network, but federal funding sources prohibit local preference, so Attention Homes cannot guarantee what so many seem to want: a project that caters exclusively to the neediest young people who actually call the city home, and not to any 18-to-24-year-old who happens to pass through.

But, Attention Homes Executive Director Claire Clurman said, “these are people who are known to us.” And while 40 units may seem a lot, the residents will be staying long enough that anyone who isn’t tied to Boulder but comes here seeking a stay on Pine Street will likely be disappointed to find no vacancy.

Clurman is used to fielding questions about who the project would and would not help, but she’s also had to answer to some who question whether the organization is indeed fit to serve young adults in the first place, regardless of where they’re coming from.

That’s a fire largely ignited and stoked by Jan Hittelman, a former Attention Homes staffer who lives a block from 1440 Pine St., and who believes his onetime employer is now abandoning its identity.

The organization cut its teeth placing people 12 to 18 years old in small-scale home settings, and the single-family house Hittelman lives in now was, in fact, an Attention Homes program site for decades. He, like others, has called the proposal “institutional” and not homey, and isn’t confident in the staff’s ability to help an age range north of 18 in a large facility so close to the temptations of downtown.

“The truth is, and it’s something Attention Homes doesn’t want to talk about, but often nonprofits will chase funding to survive, and when that happens, you morph your mission. That’s what’s happening here,” Hittelman said.

“Frankly, I’m really uncomfortable with the position of having to speak against Attention Homes,” he adds. “But I feel like somebody has to speak up. They want to talk about the nobility of the project, but money is what’s driving this whole thing.”

Thank you, Jan Hittelman, for telling the unvarnished truth about this latest boondoggle from Boulder, CO’s homeless shelter / services industry (Housing First at 1175 Lee Hill and Ready to Work on Table Mesa are others). In all such cases, I define “boondoggle” as a proposal which is overpriced and at the same time FAILS to serve more than a small minority of those in need. You might also call it a scam.

One of the well-known homeless advocates in Boulder (who supports this proposed project) told me last night, “There are close to 200 homeless youth in Boulder.” And Attention Homes wants to spend $12.5M on apartments for just 40 of them — that’s $300,000 per unit.

This isn’t a post about the viability of Tiny Homes Communities as a more cost-efficient alternative, but the fact is that OM Build in Madison, WI (as one example of what is being done in truly progressive cities all over America) can turn out a Tiny Home for $5,000 and homeless people there are actively engaged in the process of building these communities from the drawing board onward.


“It’s my RIGHT to live in a $300,000 apartment in downtown Boulder!”

I have no doubt this Attention Homes project will be rammed through by any means necessary, and there was never any intention to consider the public’s thoughts on the matter, nor any intention to find a solution that would serve ALL of the estimated 200 youth on our streets.

‘Editorial: If your dog isn’t ready for crowds, leave him at home’


By Max R. Weller

See the Times-Call commentary here. Copied below in its entirety:

Dogs are fun, cute and often friendly, and even are considered family by many Front Range residents. And while well-behaved dogs can get along with people at public festivals, not every dog belongs.

The crowds, noise and confusion can be too much for some pets, who should be left at home. But some dog owners don’t understand that.

Dogs that are not under control of their owners can become aggressive toward other dogs and toward people. One Longmont festival-goer a couple of summers ago reported that a family member was bitten by a dog at the Festival on Main and had to receive rabies shots.

But leaving dogs at home isn’t only for the benefit of people. Many dogs may find that the racket and the throngs of people are too much.

Earlier this summer, the Lafayette City Council — citing the need for safety of people and of their pets — passed a resolution prohibiting animals at many of the city’s public events. Concerns about animals being injured by people, animals’ exposure to loud music, animals fighting with each other and animals biting or being aggressive toward people led the council to unanimously approve the resolution.

While dogs are still welcome at festivals in other communities, their owners should think hard about whether it is wise to bring their pets into places with hundreds or thousands of people and other dogs.

The American Veterinary Medical Association advises pet owners to “leave your pets at home when you go to parties, fireworks displays, parades and other gatherings. Loud fireworks, unfamiliar places and crowds can all be very frightening to pets, and there’s great risk of pets becoming spooked.”

That advice is particularly about the Fourth of July, but many festivals in Front Range communities present every other potential provocation for an untrained animal — crowds, loud noises and unfamiliar places.

Getting a dog accustomed to crowds and to strangers is a smart thing to do, but unless a dog already is accustomed to everything it might encounter at a city festival — the kinds of distractions that, for instance, a service dog could handle well — then it is best to get that training at a time and place designated for dogs and their owners. There are plenty of such options available to Front Range residents — from special dog-friendly festivals to parks set aside specifically for them.

Otherwise, dog owners should do themselves, their pets and other festival-goers a favor and leave the dog at home.

My online comment from the T-C website follows:

We can hope that the nonprofits in Boulder County, especially Bridge House / Carriage House in Boulder, will STOP pushing the ill-advised idea of dog ownership for the homeless. I’ve never seen a transient’s pet which appeared to be well-cared for, all of them suffering from abuse and / or neglect to varying degrees.

And so-called service dogs, claimed to be such by their homeless owners? Most of the time it’s a scam. But, even if it is a properly-trained dog and its owner trained as well, any Service Dog must be well-behaved at all times, or both dog and owner can be told to leave the premises of any establishment which otherwise must abide by the Americans With Disabilities Act.

I’ve seen FAKE service dogs and clueless transient owners ejected from the RTD’s SKIP bus in Boulder, because the animal was aggressive and not under the owner’s control; in addition, Boulder Shelter for the Homeless no longer provides a kennel for dogs belonging to homeless clients because of similar canine misbehavior.


This poor dog looks half-starved (photo taken on University Hill).