DEMAND ACCOUNTABILITY, STOP ENABLING GREEDY HOMELESS SHELTER / SERVICES PROVIDERS!
By Max R. Weller
It just tickles me no end that two of the biggest failures among local homelessness providers — Joy Eckstine-Redstone and George Epp, formerly running the defunct Carriage House homeless day shelter and chief enablers of convicted rapist Jim Budd, founder of the soon-to-be defunct Boulder Outreach for Homeless Overflow — would initiate public hostilities with Boulder Shelter for the Homeless and its executive director, Greg Harms. To be sure, BSH and the moron(s) in charge there deserve all the criticism that comes their way . . . It’s just that Ms. Eckstine-Redstone and Mr. Epp have no more credibility than Mr. Harms!
All three of ’em are CLUELESS.
Anyway, here’s the commentary in the Daily Camera: Telling secrets. Copied below in its entirety:
A homeless man panhandles on the Pearl Street Mall in February. (Paul Aiken / Staff Photographer)
Communities at their best are like families, but that’s also true for when a community is at its worst. Communities have secrets, just like families, and react in the same predictable ways. Some of us keep the secrets close, some of us are the scapegoats, and some of us stridently insist on the dysfunction being heard. Every tome on family therapy insists on a central theme: for a family (or community) to heal, that the secrets must first be acknowledged and then integrated.
What does this have to do with homelessness? There is an unspoken secret in our community. It is the lack of cooperation from the leadership at the Boulder Shelter for the Homeless. This lack of cooperation has stymied nonprofit leaders, government agencies and homeless rights group for many years. They have been approached with ideas for collaboration that were innovative, cost-saving and humane by: Bridge House, Boulder Outreach for Homeless Overflow (BOHO), Homeless Outreach Providing Encouragement (HOPE), the Community Foundation, and many others.
Now, there is a real change happening in how homeless services are designed and delivered in the city of Boulder. Courtesy of the Homeless Working Group (part of the city’s Housing and Human Service’s Department) and the Corporation for Supportive Housing (consultants hired by the city) a radical shift in services is happening. And, as many of these changes depend on the cooperation of the Boulder Shelter, homeless individuals are at risk in our community. Life-sustaining services have already been closed.
As of May 1, Boulder Outreach for Homeless Overflow ceased to provide emergency warming centers and Bridge House stopped providing day shelter. It is proposed by the Homeless Working Group that each of these services essentially be incorporated into the operations of the shelter in the fall of 2017. However, the shelter has not agreed.
And, since many of the recommendations of the working group incorporate mainstream best practices, you could argue that this is not a real problem. After all, the homeless services and homeless advocacy worlds do not disagree in principle with the ideas. It incorporates best practices like:
• Immediate assessment using validated tools that measure vulnerability;
• Short-term rental assistance to stabilize people in housing;
• Rapid re-housing that prevents long term destabilization and use of expensive services;
• Housing First services that prioritize housing for people that are mutually both the most vulnerable and the most expensive to serve.
Setting aside another questionable assumption — that Boulder as a community will agree to more low-income housing and that neighborhoods will accept such housing, this basic problem remains. The Boulder Shelter cites its management plan as the reason that they can’t provide year-round shelter or day shelter. They have been citing that management plan for years, as this certainly isn’t the first time they’ve been asked to consider these concepts. The management plan, by ordinance, must be re-evaluated every three years. It has not been changed since 2002.
Let’s examine exactly what the plan says about any needed modifications: “These hours of operation, and corresponding hours of ingress and egress of Shelter residents, may be modified by the recommendation of the Neighborhood-Shelter Action group.” Admittedly, the rest of the sentence reads “to accommodate school schedules” but it does state that it can be modified.
Additionally, the plan states, “Residents will be allowed to stay at the Shelter during the day when the weather is life threatening and other sources of day shelter are not available (such as Thanksgiving and Christmas days.)” Since there is now no other source of day shelter and many winter days in Boulder are life threatening, it appears that providing day shelter is a legitimate possibility.
This year is the next time the management plan will be re-evaluated. The city wants the shelter to provide additional services and has taken away other services in anticipation of cooperation from the shelter. But those agreements have not yet been made. We believe the shelter’s management plan needs to be modified. It is for the good of the entire community.
However, if we return to our metaphor of a dysfunctional family, we as a community are enabling the shelter. Much like the alcoholic in the family system, the city is attempting an “intervention” designed to bring the shelter into cooperation and collaboration with itself, and with other homeless service providers. Will it succeed? Let’s hope, as the lives and well-being of many homeless people hang in the balance.
Joy Redstone is director of the Student & Community Counseling Center at Naropa University. She is a former executive director of [Carriage] House. George Epp is a retired Boulder County sheriff [and board member of Carriage House].
Over four years ago, I posted this on my blog: Boulder, CO needs a homeless people’s day center open all week. I’ve also discussed so-called best practices for homeless shelters, specifically having shelter / services in ONE location instead of spread out all over town as we see here in Boulder. Boulder Shelter for the Homeless is it! No question about it, and if Greg Harms has to be fired for this to happen then so be it.
Having said this about a year-round day shelter, I remain absolutely opposed to “emergency” overnight shelters in the summertime. A little summer rain never hurt me, nor has it hurt anyone else I know who is homeless in Boulder, but I’ll grant you that a 100-Year Flood is a special circumstance which can be dealt with if and when it occurs again in our lifetimes (NOT likely).
The Primary Goal must be to reduce the numbers of transients using finite resources which should be prioritized for Boulder County’s own homeless men, women, and children. It would seem, however, that the yahoos running things want to KEEP the Alabama arsonists, Florida sex offenders, and other riffraff from all across the nation in our city year-round. NO, HELL NO!
(E-mailed to Boulder City Council)