HELP BOULDER COUNTY’S OWN HOMELESS PEOPLE, NOT TRANSIENTS!
By Max R. Weller
160 beds at Boulder Shelter for the Homeless and 1,600 “unique individuals” with NO priority given to those who have struggled to survive here for years? They’re called RESIDENTS, even if homeless! What is being proposed in the Daily Camera article Boulder City Council supports year-round use of homeless shelter, copied below in its entirety, is FUBAR once you examine it closely — unless you’re a lazy young traveler from who-knows-where or a registered sex offender:
Krissy Fox and Daniel Bing, who say they are homeless, hang out on the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder on Monday. (Paul Aiken / Staff Photographer)
City Council members and some homeless advocates are hopeful that a change to the Boulder Shelter for the Homeless management plan will improve, not worsen, neighborhood relations for the shelter.
Following a three-hour discussion and public hearing Tuesday night, the council voted unanimously to approve a requested update to the management plan.
Under the drafted changes, the shelter, which sits along north Broadway near the northwest edge of the city, would open 160 beds year-round for homeless people classified as having “moderate” or “high” needs.
Those people would be allowed to stay at the shelter during the daytime, which is a change from the current system that sends clients away in the morning and welcomes them back in the evening.
Overall, the changes would represent a shift away from walk-up and night-by-night servicing and toward something more long term, in which some clients might stay a year or more in the building, according to Boulder Human Services Director Karen Rahn.
“I see these changes as making those impacts (on the neighborhood) smaller,” said Councilman Aaron Brockett, who lives near the shelter. “In the past, you had 1,600 unique individuals coming to a shelter in a given year. That number is going to go down dramatically.”
“Also, by allowing people to stay there during the day, you’re going to change the migration as well,” he added, referencing the current system that requires people to leave in the morning, and often encourages a flurry of homeless activity at particular times of day, in particular spots.
Mike Homner, a local homeless advocate, applauded the new approach.
“I am absolutely astounded that we’re hopefully going to use the shelter year-round,” he said.
His comments were echoed by several others.
But some remain wary, as will be on display Oct. 2 when the shelter hosts a “good neighbor meeting” to discuss proposed changes with those who live nearby. The meeting is planned for 5:30 p.m. at the Shining Mountain Waldorf School Gymnasium, 999 Violet Ave.
One neighbor who spoke at Tuesday’s public hearing said to expect to hear significant pushback and concern at that meeting, which several council members said they would attend.
The upcoming shift at the shelter is part of a broader change to Boulder’s response to homelessness, as reflected in a strategic document approved earlier this summer.
Starting Oct. 1, the city will transition toward a program that begins with “coordinated entry” and “navigation” services. Boulder will look to establish what is effectively a one-stop shop for homeless people seeking help.
They’d arrive at the facility — the long-term location of which is not yet known, though city staff say they’re closing in on a spot — and meet with case management staff who would then, based on a screening, refer clients either to the shelter, if their needs are higher, or to the “navigation” side, if their needs are lesser.
In the latter case, clients would then be moved toward the services they may need, including mental health care or rental assistance, city staff says.
Boulder is also working toward creating 35 “permanent supportive and rapid rehousing opportunities” for Boulder’s homeless, as support for the new strategy’s general goal to emphasize exits from homelessness, as opposed to emergency, “Band-Aid” responses.
“I think this new strategy that really emphasizes investing in getting people up and out of homelessness, rather that just in emergency shelter, is the right way to go,” Mayor Suzanne Jones said.
“I also think the shelter is a community asset and we should figure out how to make the most of it. These recommended changes, to me, make good sense in terms of really utilizing that resource year-round.”
Meanwhile, it appears that weather concerns are among the outstanding issues heading into the colder season.
In 2016, city staff reported, there were 21 days in Boulder County that qualified as having weather severe enough to trigger the opening of a special shelter.
But there are many more than 21 days from October through May that present severe health risks to those who remain outdoors, some argued at Tuesday’s meeting. Homner told council members he knows people who’ve lost digits to frostbite in Boulder.
“You must approve emergency warming centers for every night,” Sara Jane Cohen implored.
“It seems to me,” Brockett followed, later in the meeting, “that 20 days in a winter, we’re not going to get to the bar of keeping people from freezing to death.”
Unless Boulder’s powers-that-be show some gumption and REQUIRE valid photo ID with a Boulder County address and proof of at least one year’s residency here, the 160 available beds at BSH will have a majority of transients (and/or registered sex offenders, another issue nobody wants to face up to) from outside of Boulder County (and some from other states) filling them. And where, pray tell, does Councilman Aaron Brockett think the 1,440 “unique individuals” who fail to get a bed in the shelter will be hanging out? I live in that neighborhood, too, since early 2008 — and I know that many of the worst-behaved transients will remain there; others will continue to overrun Pearl Street Mall, Boulder Creek Path, various city parks, our Main Library, University Hill, etc. The City Council is living in a Rainbows & Unicorns fantasy regarding homelessness, just as they are with municipalization.
Letting these characters lie around both night and day in their shelter bunks is ludicrous; when the Homeless Philosopher has proposed keeping BSH open as a homeless people’s day center, with access to many different services under that one roof, he meant it should be available to ALL homeless people on a walk-up basis . . . And certainly, providing bus tickets for transients to return to their own counties in Colorado or to other states would be a big part of what is offered in ideal circumstances.