HELP BOULDER COUNTY’S OWN HOMELESS MEN, WOMEN, AND CHILDREN — NOT MARIJUANA TRAVELERS AND SEX OFFENDERS!
By Max R. Weller
Read the article in the Daily Camera here. Copied below in its entirety:
Two homeless men, who refused to give their names, share a bite to eat while sitting in Central Park in Boulder. (Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer)
The Boulder City Council held a lengthy workshop session during its meeting on Tuesday, aimed at fine-tuning the new management plan for the city’s homeless shelter.
That plan has been drafted and redrafted through the fall, as the city and the shelter attempt to agree on operational terms that satisfy the shelter, the people who live near it and officials who are working to implement a new homelessness strategy.
Reaching a draft that leaves all those parties feeling good has proved to be very difficult in recent months, and the lingering discomfort of some players in this process was on full display at times during Tuesday’s discussion — particularly on the issue of “sexually violent predators” in north Boulder.
No decisions were made following the council’s hearing, as the council was giving guidance to City Manager Jane Brautigam, who is tasked with negotiating on a management plan with the shelter that sits along north Broadway near Lee Hill Road.
That negotiation process is nearing an end, though, and the assumption at the meeting was that the council might not reconvene on this issue until June.
Following a “good neighbor” meeting on Oct. 2 with north Boulder residents who live near the homeless shelter, administrators proposed dialing back some operational changes in order to address concerns they heard at the meeting.
At the meeting, neighbors learned of a plan that would see the shelter open 160 beds year-round for homeless people classified as having “moderate” or “high” needs.
The shelter would operate within the larger homelessness strategy that de-emphasizes emergency services and requires homeless people seeking help to register with a “coordinated entry” system that aims to refer people to appropriate paths out of homelessness or toward agencies that can help them.
More than 500 people have completed the coordinated entry screening to date, according to Karen Rahn, the city’s director of Human Services.
The shelter is primed to undergo some significant operational changes, beyond becoming more of a year-round site. It would also eliminate “clean and sober” requirements and amend the way it handles people deemed by the state to be “sexually violent predators,” of which there were four at one point last summer.
It would also eliminate morning services — such as showers and breakfast — for walk-up clients (Emphasis is mine — MRW), and forbid shelter clients from leaving and re-entering the facility during the daytime except in cases where those clients had appointments or otherwise important business to handle.
“If all you want in the community is a shower and a locker and you’re not interested in services, no, there is not a place to go,” Rahn said of this likely change at the shelter, describing the general point of “coordinated entry.” (Emphasis is mine — MRW.)
Some neighbors of the shelter spoke during the public hearing about the various ways in which they feel unsafe living nearby. One man talked about a homeless man found staying in his basement, while another woman said that her son is regularly harassed on the way to school by homeless people offering drugs and alcohol.
“It sounds like so many disagree with what we’re doing,” said Mirabai Nagle, the councilwoman who was elected in November. “If (neighbors) just aren’t happy, and they inundate us with this amount of emails, to me that says we’re doing something wrong, possibly.
“Are we serving our residents who are homeless or are we serving a greater influx of transients? I don’t know if our infrastructure and budget are set up for this.”
Several veteran council members went around explaining to Nagle the “context” for Tuesday’s discussion, related to the broader homelessness strategy.
But even after that, Nagle turned to the neighbors in the crowd and said, “Does this make sense to you?”
Audience members shook their heads and one shouted something before being shushed by Mayor Suzanne Jones.
“We hear you,” Jones said to the neighbors. “It’s a balancing act of trying to figure it out. We appreciate your input.”
There was some discussion later at the meeting of whether that section of north Boulder needs its own police annex.
“I certainly understand the neighbors’ concerns up there in wanting more police presence,” police Chief Greg Testa said to the council. “But I have the staff that I have and we have to answer 911 emergency calls for service throughout the entire city, so I cannot just assign officers to patrol the area of the shelter.”
Jones said to Testa that he should let the council know if he needs more resources to keep the community safe, and Testa thanked her for that, but added that it would be a challenge to hire more officers even if the money were there, due to officer shortages in the area.
Some citizens said that cellphone coverage is spotty in parts of north Boulder, which makes them feel even less safe. Councilwoman Lisa Morzel said that she walks the area frequently and can confirm the service is “really bad.”
The council agreed upon one way they think they can make things safer: limiting the number of “sexually violent predators” who live at the shelter at any one time to one. That was an idea that came from Councilman Aaron Brockett and, while it was not final — as nothing was Tuesday — it did seem popular among the members.
Regarding the parts of this story I italicized above, the Homeless Philosopher himself will be banned from Boulder Shelter for the Homeless despite having been a morning visitor there for almost a decade — without ever receiving a single disciplinary consequence for any inappropriate behavior. Most of the residents at this facility can NOT make that claim, so I’m wondering now if my friend R. was spot on when she said to me: “Max, you have a bulls-eye on your back. The shelter wants to get rid of you!”
Generally speaking from my years of experience, the walk-up homeless clients at 6AM who seek a hot shower, access to a small locker, and a hot breakfast (which I only rarely eat) are NOT troublemakers when compared with BSH residents staying in the facility overnight. BUT, ending so-called morning services is low-hanging fruit that both city staff and the executive director, Greg Harms, can grasp and point to as their effort to ensure the safety of residents, workers, business owners, and customers in the neighborhood. It’s horse pucky, of course:
Scooped up by Karen Rahn.
(BTW, I have friends among all of those neighborhood groups listed above, and I wish that city staff would ask them about me. And the newspaper, too.)
But, I digress . . .
The REAL problem here is that the new and highly-touted Coordinated Entry for homeless shelter / services is a sham. It’s the same worst-behaved transients without ties to Boulder County who are being given a hearty welcome, and Boulder County’s own homeless people continue to be shortchanged. Yes, we have been LIED to by the bureaucrats and the nonprofit do-gooders alike. And most Boulder City Council members seem to be willing to play along . . . Furthermore, of the 500+ people who have been screened to date, you can depend on NOT a single one of them finding permanent housing and remaining in it long-term — 5 years, let us say. ALL of them will recycle through the system over and over again, which guarantees JOB SECURITY for everyone involved in running this con game.
True now more than ever!