Council member on new homelessness strategy: ‘It’s ridiculous . . .’

HELP BOULDER COUNTY’S OWN HOMELESS PEOPLE, NOT TRANSIENTS!

By Max R. Weller

Read the Daily Camera’s report here: Boulder OKs new homelessness strategy, calls on neighboring cities for backup. Copied below in its entirety:

A homeless man, who didn’t give his name, sleeps in Central Park on Tuesday in Boulder.

A homeless man, who didn’t give his name, sleeps in Central Park on Tuesday in Boulder. (Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer)

The system of services available to the area’s homeless and unstably housed is changing, with a planned shift in priorities that promises greater focus on exits from homelessness and more personalized case management.

But Boulder officials are hoping to get more buy-in from other towns in the county to address this regional problem.

On Tuesday night, the City Council spent several hours reviewing the city’s new “Long-Term Homelessness Strategy,” then voted unanimously to approve the document.

One of the most significant proposals within the strategy — informed in large part by the work of a citizen working group — involves establishing a “coordinated entry and assessment” program.

The city currently has little data on the homeless people they serve, and would work with service providers to collect better information on who they’re serving and what their distinct needs may be.

Under this plan, people deemed “high-need” through the entry process would be referred, often, to transitional housing at the Boulder Shelter for the Homeless, Boulder Human Services Director Karen Rahn said.

Meanwhile, those with smaller needs would be referred to a facility — the location, among other details, to be determined — at what Rahn called a “navigation center,” and ideally given access to short-term beds, plus rental and transportation subsidies.

This entry system would focus on intake of single-adult homeless people. Roughly half of homeless people in this area are members of families with children. Rahn said Boulder would look to include those demographics in the future.

“We want to start with (single adults), get that going, get that fine-tuned,” she said. “We want to make sure we’re starting it right and making the adjustments as we go.”

The council was generally supportive of this and other aspects of the homelessness strategy, though some members expressed concern about potentially committing to coordinated entry at the expense of emergency solutions.

“What I’ve seen as the biggest gap in what we’ve proposed is emergency and walk-up sheltering,” Councilman Aaron Brockett said, echoing concerns recently voiced by homeless people and advocates in Boulder.

“If you have someone who comes into crisis on a particular day, I think we need to be able to offer something to help those people on that day.”

As part of its broad focus on housing solutions, the city’s strategy identifies multiple targets for creation of more exit scenarios.

The strategy calls for five new units of permanent supportive housing in the city every year, and 10 in the county at large. It also calls for 20 new units of “rapid rehousing” in the city for those who’ve fallen homeless, and 50 such units in the county.

Kurt Firnhaber, the city’s director of housing, advised looking at existing housing stock to satisfy those goals, but he acknowledged that the numbers set by the strategy are a “stretch.”

Acknowledging Firnhaber’s point that achieving relatively small numbers of exits annually may well prove a stretch, Councilwoman Jan Burton said that targets of five, 10, 20 and 50 are insufficient.

“It’s ridiculous. It’s got to be much higher than that,” she said. “I mean, wow. That’s not going to put a dent in it.” (Emphasis is mine — MRW.)

Several council members expressed a desire to pressure surrounding communities that they allegedly ignore the issue of regional homelessness. The council was pleased with Longmont’s outlook, but criticized other county communities for their collective lack of involvement in serving, transitioning and then housing the homeless.

“We need to get them on board,” Councilwoman Lisa Morzel said. “This is a regional issue.”

Mayor Suzanne Jones, whose sister, Elise Jones, is a county commissioner, wondered aloud whether Boulder County officials might not “compel participation” from neighboring communities through withheld funds, or other punitive actions.

“I think it’s time to think about leverage,” Jones added.

Several council members said the city should consider, as a temporary homeless housing site, the former Boulder Community Health location on Broadway, which the city owns and plans to redevelop, but sits vacant now.

A consistent theme in discussions about Boulder’s response to homelessness is that the Boulder Shelter for the Homeless, on north Broadway, is not as valuable an asset as it could be, in part because of a restrictive neighborhood management plan that limits the number of clients who can be served on a nightly basis.

However, the shelter’s executive director, Greg Harms, indicated that his organization is open to renegotiating the management plan. This would take place through a series of meetings with neighbors, and could result in more bed space and perhaps a greater diversity of services in that facility.

Mayor Suzanne Jones predicted a less-than-smooth process on that front.

“I’m guessing a lot of neighbors are going to be upset,” she said.

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At this point, let me make it clear that NOBODY is talking about prioritizing shelter / services for the homeless folks who actually have been living here in Boulder County; they’re being lumped together with Alabama arsonists and Denver sex offenders. This is a fatal flaw in what is obviously a cobbled-together plan lacking in common sense; the number of transients allowed to migrate to Boulder, CO and become dependent on social services will always be far in excess of available housing . . . YOU MUST SET PRIORITIES BASED ON RESIDENCY AND REQUIRE DOCUMENTATION!

The neighbors have been upset for a long time, Mayor Jones, and it’s mostly due to the many registered sex offenders being harbored by Boulder Shelter for the Homeless. None of my neighbors can recall Greg Harms or anybody else mentioning that rapists and pedophiles would be a part of BSH’s operating plan, and now all the misguided do-gooders want to do is make excuses for it so they can continue to collect $$$ from Colorado DOC for the perverts in so-called parole beds.

It seems to this long-time observer of homelessness that the issue is way too much for the nonprofits and city staff of Boulder, CO to deal with — and this plan seems to satisfy no one at all. Indeed, it’s ridiculous in more ways than Councilwoman Burton meant.

I predict that the Transient Migration will increase, the new Civic Area will once again be overrun by BUMS from outside of Boulder County, the quality of life for residents will suffer, and still more impotent hand-wringing will be the response of all those in authority as well as of those who whine endlessly while claiming to advocate for the homeless.

Boulder Homelessness Czar, Alfred E. Neuman 

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