DEMAND ACCOUNTABILITY, STOP ENABLING BAD BEHAVIOR!
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. (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.
MAKE BOULDER’S PUBLIC SPACES LIVABLE AGAIN!