HELP BOULDER COUNTY’S OWN HOMELESS MEN, WOMEN, AND CHILDREN — NOT THE WORST-BEHAVED TRANSIENTS FROM ELSEWHERE!
By Max R. Weller
Read the report in the Daily Camera here: Homeless worry as day shelter closes and Boulder plans systemic shift. Copied below in its entirety:
Steve and Kyla wait with other homeless people for Deacon’s Closet to open on Thursday. Homeless people wait outside Deacon’s Closet to pick up clothing. This clothing bank is part of the First Presbyterian Church in Boulder. (Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer)
On Friday at the First Presbyterian Church annex on Walnut Street, a group of homeless people lounged as an April snow whirled outside, on what was the third-to-last time daytime sheltering would be offered in Boulder.
Beginning Monday, this service, provided in rotating church locations by the organizations Bridge House and Boulder Outreach for Homeless Overflow — better known around town as BOHO — will end.
BOHO’s Residents’ Shelter, a year-round nighttime space that accommodates up to 40 people, will also cease operation. Seventeen BOHO staff members, all of whom are formerly homeless, will be out of work.
Also closing Monday is the Bridge House resource center at the Walnut annex, which has long been the primary place for Boulder’s homeless to seek out direct access or leads to things like medical care, bus passes, housing vouchers and applications, and birth certificate and social security card reclamation.
This is all a part of a planned systemic change to the way local government and “safety net” non-profits will approach homelessness.
A new vision, centered less on emergency services and more on transitional and permanent housing solutions, promises to bring a series of new programs at new locations with new priorities.
Some services, like those provided by the Boulder Shelter for the Homeless on north Broadway through Bridge House’s Ready to Work program, will either remain intact or be expanded.
But as the snow fell Friday and the homeless keeping warm indoors pondered the prospect of no longer having a day shelter at which to get a free lunch or even simply a safe place to stay for a few hours, the focus was on the immediate impact, and morale was low.
“These people are concerned. They’re not real happy,” said Ron Hempstead, a 53-year-old homeless Boulder native.
“It’s the simple things that just make day-to-day existence a little easier when you’re homeless. So it does feel like they’re pretty much throwing us to the wolves.”
Jordan Samuelson, who a few years ago suffered injuries from a car crash that cost him his job and ultimately his housing, said the end of day sheltering in Boulder will “leave a lot of people in a lot of dire.”
Just two days earlier, the city had announced plans to up enforcement of its urban camping ban by increasing police patrols and encampment sweeps in some of the areas with the highest concentrations of homeless people.
“A lot of us are worried, especially when you see a day like today,” Samuelson said, pointing out toward the snowy street. “This town is becoming so homeless-unfriendly.”
Cutbacks precede planning
On May 16, the City Council will discuss the long-awaited recommendations produced through months of meetings by a working group on homelessness, convened by the council in the fall and tasked with evaluating budgetary and programmatic changes Boulder should make as it joins communities around country in shifting toward a “housing first” approach.
“We can’t abandon the needs for temporary, short-term solutions,” said Isabel McDevitt, executive director of Bridge House. “But we need a continuum that is more focused toward the exits than the entries, and right now, because of our lack of a coordinated system and a lack of a cohesive strategy, we’ve been way too focused on the emergency system.”
One of the central goals expressed by the council and sure to be featured in the yet-to-be-publicized working group recommendations concerns a new kind of intake program.
As officials across Colorado grow increasingly concerned with what’s commonly described as an influx of younger homeless people more prone to being transient-by-choice, Boulder plans to begin implementing something like a library card system, wherein clients can be tracked by name and services accessed.
This, theoretically, will allow providers to both better understand and assist people on individual bases, and to identify which homeless people are local and should be prioritized for city services, and which are simply passing through.
“People who need help would go to a location, and everybody who’s trying to access services would go through there,” explained Karen Rahn, the city’s director of Human Services. “It could be that this happens at a couple locations, to make it convenient. But wherever it happens, people will be assessed or screened using common, standard tools and process. Everyone trying to access services will be known to us, and we’ll be able to track them through the system, so that people are less likely to fall through the cracks.”
Rahn said she’s aware many homeless fundamentally distrust police and anyone else trying to “track them,” and promised that the new focus is “not interested in names … but in knowing how people are going to get help.”
It’s not clear exactly where this revamped intake will happen moving forward. The changes starting Monday come 15 days before the council even gets a crack at the working group’s recommendations and begins discussions of future budgeting and facilities based on those recommendations.
“The timelines don’t match up”, said McDevitt, “so we basically have to problem-solve for the summer and then really put emphasis as a community to implementing what’s in the workplan.”
The plan, at least for the very near term, is as follows:
Case management services, previously offered at the annex resource center, will now be provided at sites of various organizations, like the library and Clinica Family Health.
The nightly dinner put on by Bridge House’s Community Table Kitchen will continue, and the lunch schedule dissolved by the closure of day sheltering will be replaced by a sack-lunch program.
The north Boulder shelter will expand its “clean and sober” transitional program to 120 beds, up from 90 last summer and 60 three years ago. In the mornings, breakfast, showers and laundry will all be available there, too, as they have been.
Meanwhile, as a city news release stated, “implementation planning for fall services will take place over the summer with a goal of launching most service changes by Oct. 1.”
Without knowing the long-term plan, and staring down a series of service losses starting this week, many of those who access these services or advocate for the homeless are displeased.
“The so-called plan is so much fairy dust, sprinkled across the entirety of Boulder,” Darren O’Connor of Boulder Rights Watch wrote in an email to the council, “with the (working group) and the city moving forward wishing homelessness and homeless people, and their very real and dire needs, will all go away.”
At least one member of the working group, who requested anonymity, said O’Connor’s assessment wasn’t far off.
“I was there for all those meetings,” they said. “We didn’t get (expletive) done.”
That member continued, “At the end of the day, we could’ve all gone and had a coffee and said, ‘OK, let’s get rid of this and that and try to use the shelter more. We don’t know what it’s gonna look like, but we’ll try to figure it out later.’ A one-hour meeting could’ve accomplished what ten of those did.”
What a bunch of crybabies! So now the transient pansies have been deflowered and will have to do more to help themselves — sounds good to the Homeless Philosopher:
1) No more drunken flophouses at either Boulder Shelter for the Homeless or Boulder Outreach for Homeless Overflow;
2) No more “day shelter” in the pleasant summer months (nobody will melt when it rains, I promise);
3) No more Free Lunches for the bums;
4) No more “resource center” directing the bums where to go for Free Stuff;
5) An increased focus on shelter / services for Boulder County residents in need, rather than Alabama arsonists or Florida sex offenders or other assorted riffraff from around the nation.
I’d sum it up with this meme:
Of course, the local homeless shelter / services industry wants to focus more on so-called transitional living programs — that’s where the BIG MONEY from both private donors and government agencies comes into play, and we’re talking about millions and millions of $$$ each and every year in Boulder, CO alone! There has never been much moola in emergency shelters and soup kitchens intended to meet short-term needs of the homeless.
It’s another post, and I won’t go into it here, but the only program clients who ever “succeed” in any transitional living arrangement are those in the 10% who would have done so on their own, anyway . . .
This is only a beginning to ending the Transient Migration, folks; now, we must see Boulder police turned loose to move the bums on down the road. How about it, City Council members?
(This post e-mailed to Boulder City Council.)