See: Boulder has a homeless conundrum by Mike Freece, who served for many years with Community Food Share and Harvest of Hope food pantry, published in the local newspaper.
His assertions are so at odds with my own experience in Boulder, CO that I’m going to copy his entire piece below, then I’ll challenge it:
The city of Boulder has made some decisions in the last 18 months regarding their approach to the “homeless” issue. They have put their money into a program of “Coordinated Entry” and “Path to Home” that is clearly helping a limited number of those experiencing homelessness. I believe the city is not looking at the entire problem.
Imagine you are 60 years old, you are a Boulder County native, you lost your job in 2000, you have been homeless and living on the street for 20 years, your family has all moved away, you have severe cataracts, impaired hearing and Parkinson’s. One day you discover you have an infection in your foot and it is getting more an more difficult to walk. You find a way to get to the People’s Clinic, where you are diagnosed and given antibiotics. It doesn’t get better and its harder and harder to walk, so getting back to the clinic is a challenge. You finally find a ride to the clinic and they send you to Boulder Community Hospital, where they save your toes but surgically remove some of several toes. They release you.
You can’t walk far, the hospital wants you to change dressings twice a day, they want you to be in a clean environment while it heals, you have zero money.
Where do you go next? How is someone who has very low vision, difficulties hearing, recent surgery and no money supposed to do these things without help?
This is a real life story that unfolded in our city in mid-February.
The problem is not that we lack the resources. The problem is they are disconnected and miles apart. Boulder needs to come to grips with the need for a local day shelter where the necessary personnel are available to direct and manage the needs of the local homeless in their times of crises, as well as, responsible transportation and follow through.
For one agency resource to simply “refer” someone to the next agency for additional needs is not adequate.
There is more to this story.
We are making our trek through the myriad of services available. We are experiencing first-hand the frustration of separate physical locations and the bureaucracy that exists at each and every agency. I’ll report later after we have completed our journey. Hopefully with a new sense of self and a safe and secure place to rest.
I am not new to the plight of those in need in Boulder. I was a 35-year resident of Boulder, I volunteered over 15 years and served for nearly eight years on the board of Community Food Share, I was part of the founding board for Harvest of Hope Pantry.
Mike Freece lives in Boulder.
Well, one sentence above is true, I have no doubt: There is more to this story.
In April, 2016 I collapsed while walking across Norlin Quad on the CU campus. I was leaving Norlin Library, on my way to catch the SKIP bus back to my homeless campsite in the north Boulder neighborhood where I’d lived for years. I didn’t have the strength to get up on my own, much to my chagrin. A couple of passersby helped me over to a bench, and a CU Police officer called the paramedics.
At Boulder Community Hospital, they took one look at my lower right leg and told me the bad news: It was cellulitis, an infection causing much swelling and weeping of the flesh, and initially they were concerned that it might be MRSA, the “flesh-eating disease.” I lucked out on that, but still required several days of powerful IV antibiotics to knock out the germs. I was as weak as a kitten during this time. When I became well enough to be discharged, it was directly to a local nursing home for follow-up care including a course of oral antibiotics and physical therapy. Transportation was provided by one of the medical transport companies. I spent five months at the facility, then I happily returned to living outdoors in north Boulder.
Everything was paid for by Medicaid, which I signed up for in the ER as they evaluated my condition. (I recall a nice lady with a clipboard came by with the paperwork, and all I had to do was sign it.) And I mean everything: Hospital, drugs, X-rays, lab work, medical transport, and then all of the expenses at the nursing home as well.
There was nothing unique about my case. In fact, my experience was repeated in December, 2017 when I suffered a heart attack inside Norlin Library, as I was working at one of the public access computers available there. Yes, I got another ambulance ride, and this time with emergency lights and siren. After several days of all kinds of diagnostic procedures and treatment at Boulder Community Hospital, including an unsuccessful attempt to place a stent near the bottom of my right coronary artery, I was discharged to a different nursing home in another city about 30 miles away. I’m still there after 15 months, and have never paid a penny out of my own pocket.
Mike Freece doesn’t have a clue about how things are supposed to be done, or he’s writing about someone who refused care that’s available to anybody, or his whole damn opinion piece is rubbish.
It’s sad but so very typical of the sort of do-gooders I’ve observed in Boulder, CO’s homeless shelter / services industry since I arrived in Colorado to stay for good, back in 2008. It’s why I steadfastly declined all of their efforts at persuading me to get into any worthless programs they operate, why I never stayed in the local emergency shelters, why I never patronized any of the Free Giveaway venues, and why I’ve been their most persistent critic — writing from the front lines of homelessness.
To this day, Medicaid is the only social services benefit I receive, and almost everyone in this nursing home is on either Medicare or Medicaid because of the humongous costs for even a very basic level of accommodations. As I’ve often said, I’d prefer to live outdoors in all of the variety of weather the Front Range offers, with all of the wild critters I came to know.
It’s unlikely the Homeless Philosopher will ever meet Mr. Mike Freece face-to-face, but I’d love to look him in his beady little eyes and say, “Mike, you are a lying impostor!”
Shame, shame on the Daily Camera for printing his fiction in the guise of informed opinion.
(E-mailed to Boulder City Council.)