DEMAND ACCOUNTABILITY, STOP ENABLING BAD BEHAVIOR!
By Max R. Weller
Read the story in the Daily Camera here: Conflicted Boulder City Council creates new plan for homeless sheltering in severe weather. Copied below in its entirety:
Jason, left, and Mark, both of whom refused to give their last name, take a nap on the grass in front of the Glen Huntington Bandshell in Central Park in Boulder. Both of the men are currently homeless. (Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer)
The Boulder City Council entered Tuesday night’s meeting with a dilemma concerning severe-weather sheltering for the homeless.
In a 5-1 vote — Sam Weaver, Andrew Shoemaker and Lisa Morzel were absent — the shorthanded council approved a new plan that will offer the homeless emergency shelter for an estimated 60 to 80 nights between December and February, up from the standing approach that would have done so for only about 20 estimated nights.
But the council, by its own admission, did not necessarily resolve the conflict inherent in Tuesday’s discussion.
The dilemma arises from the fact that Boulder is leading a countywide shift in homeless services, which is centered on a plan to offer homeless people personalized paths to long-term stability by getting them registered with a new “coordinated entry” system.
This way, the thinking goes, homeless clients will be better known to the system, and less likely to repeatedly need to seek out emergency, “Band-Aid” solutions.
Notably, the new strategy de-prioritizes these emergency solutions, such as walk-up sheltering and the services provided by now-dormant Boulder Outreach for Homeless Overflow, as money and time is diverted to long-term programs.
But where does that leave homeless people who are not a part of the coordinated system, but still seek out shelter on cold nights?
For a City Council banking on this overall strategic shift, the challenge on Tuesday was to strike a balance between respecting the new strategy and implementing a severe-weather sheltering policy that responds to the very real threat to life that winter conditions present.
Councilman Matt Appelbaum stressed that the new systems need to jibe, and not run in parallel.
“It makes sense not to try to create a parallel system,” Mayor Suzanne Jones agreed. “But we also don’t want people to die on the streets.”
The key to that balance, according to Boulder’s Human Services director, Karen Rahn, is to get homeless clients who come to the severe-weather shelter involved in the coordinated entry system as soon as possible, so that they’re not coming back over and over for one-off nights of shelter — and thereby subverting the whole intent of the new program.
Rahn’s staff recommended a plan that would have seen emergency sheltering triggered whenever the National Weather Service issued a winter weather warning or watch, or temperatures were at or below 20 degrees.
This would cost the city an estimated $60,000 and lead to shelter being open somewhere between 50 and 60 nights from December to February.
The council felt that recommended plan would be insufficient.
Following a motion from Councilman Aaron Brockett, the council approved a plan to trigger emergency shelter under all the conditions named in the staff recommendation, plus in the event of weather with temperatures below 32 degrees and predicted snow.
That plan will provide sheltering between 60 and 80 nights this winter, according to estimates, and cost about $80,000.
“I think the imperative is to have people not dying on the streets when it’s preventable,” Brockett said.
Before casting the lone dissenting vote, Appelbaum said that the city needed stricter criteria for anyone seeking severe shelter, lest the overall plan be subverted.
“Go with the new system. Make it work,” he said. “Get people to go through the evaluations, the navigation system and so on. … I’d certainly have it so people are required to enter the system after a couple of uses.”
But, much as this council wants to see the coordinated entry program succeed, Appelbaum’s warning against “parallel” systems didn’t compel five of the six members present on Tuesday.
Following the council vote, city staff will move ahead in seeking out a provider, and hope to have details of the severe-weather sheltering plan in place by November.
“It’ll be a little muddy, and that’s the way it is,” Jones said of the conflicting efforts. “That’s the way it’s going to have to be.”
Two points come to mind:
1) You can NEVER force anyone to become a permanent dependent on the social services system against their will, apparently NOT even if they’re mentally ill and a danger to themselves. Just look at the scores, perhaps hundreds, of transient Froot Loops in Boulder County, CO right now; many have been part of the “homeless circuit” traveling around the country for years!
(The Homeless Philosopher falls into a different category — that of crotchety old hermit — but he is equally determined to live apart from the misguided “programs” offered by clueless do-gooders.)
2) What happened to the vague promises to begin PRIORITIZING homeless shelter / services here for residents of Boulder County who are in need, and who request assistance? It seems to have been put aside . . . I see nothing different at Boulder Shelter for the Homeless this season; my educated guess is that more than half of clients there are from outside our city and county of Boulder, and many are Marijuana Travelers from outside of Colorado altogether. WTF?
If you’re concerned enough to want to lessen the risk of homeless people dying of exposure, OFFER THEM BUS TICKETS TO WARMER CLIMES! Giving homeless petty offenders a choice between being cited into court (and then sent to jail upon conviction for various offenses) OR a bus ride out of town would result in at least 90% choosing the latter option, I’m absolutely convinced.
(BTW, what those two BUMS pictured above need, more than anything else, is for someone to come along and kick their lazy butts!)