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Boulder plans new day service center for homeless residents

Backed by the city council, Boulder is embarking on an effort to open a day shelter for homeless residents.

The goal is to create a low-barrier shelter to improve the overall health and well-being of people who might use the space while improving public spaces where homeless people who are homeless would otherwise reside.

According to information presented in a public forum on the subject, the city plans to achieve this by providing a one-stop place where people can access services – potentially including case management and mental health support – and a welcoming space. and inclusive so that people can connect with organizations providing such services.

But as with many homelessness-related projects, there’s disagreement in the community about almost every aspect of the shelter: where to locate it, what services it should provide, and whether it’s a good idea.

On Friday, a pair of shoes lay on the table in a room full of lockers at the Boulder Shelter for the Homeless. Lockers are available to be checked by people who participate in the Coordinated Entry Program. (Matthew Jonas/staff photographer)

“We are listening to what the community has to say, as well as service providers,” Housing and Social Services Director Kurt Firnhaber said in Boulder City Council’s annual homelessness update on Thursday. “We are really targeting those who…could provide some of these services in this center to understand what services will be useful, what are the objectives of such a center.”

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Boulder has generally not offered day shelter services since service provided at rotating churches by the organizations Bridge House and Boulder Outreach for Homeless Overflow – better known in the city as BOHO – ended in 2017.

There are exceptions at particular locations, such as The Lodge, which remains open to its residents, and the Boulder Shelter for the Homeless, which sometimes remains open to shelter residents on particularly cold days.

Since the 2017 closure, some have complained about the lack of daytime services available.

In fact, some service providers sent a letter to city officials in January that outlined a plan for a day shelter along with a variety of other services.

The letter, signed by the Boulder Safe Camping Initiative, Bridge House, Colorado Safe Parking Initiative, Feet Forward, Mother House/The Lodge and TGTHR, estimates a potential annual cost of up to $1.4 million, with the center including services navigation and support. , day and overnight accommodation programs, supervised camping and more. What the various organizations suggest would be a low barrier and would aim to meet the needs of people with a variety of needs.

“The Needed Shelter program, fully developed as a service center with a full range of programs, would be sized to provide services to those entering homelessness, to those working to achieve their exit plans from homelessness and to those who are not yet ready for an exit-oriented outing. programming,” the letter reads.

The proposal for a day shelter that is currently under consideration received unanimous support at this year’s Boulder City Council retreat. He was introduced by some of the new members of the city council.

What people hope to see

For many of those who spoke in favor of a day care center at an information forum on August 24, the shelter should be easy to get to. This could include making sure it is centrally located and/or close to public transport and that there is a low barrier to entry.

The Boulder Homeless Shelter, while providing some leeway for new residents, requires people to go through the county’s Coordinated Entry Screening process in order to stay at the shelter.

As a former employee of the Boulder Public Library, Johanna Dadisman saw the importance of having a space to go to, especially during the height of the coronavirus pandemic when the library and other de facto day spaces have closed to the public.

“Giving people a place to rest, recognizing that they don’t have to participate in a coordinated entry to access that space, unlike the overnight shelter, would be extremely important,” Dadisman said during the interview. August 24 meeting.

Sara-Jane Cohen expressed similar sentiments.

“The city needs a facility where homeless people, who are not housed, can come and spend a few hours warm, safe, dry and fed,” she said.

In terms of services that should be available, some referred to the offering of similar centers in the area, including DMV2GO, a traveling program that helps people obtain driver’s license services, as well as showers, mail, mental health and wellness support services.

Others, including some in open comments at Thursday’s city council meeting, argued that the center was not an appropriate way to spend the city’s money.

“If you build even better services like showers and hair salons, in the city center you will attract more people,” said Kathleen Hancock. “Encouraging people to congregate downtown makes it harder for our businesses to thrive, many of which are small and owned by local families; so that high school students, university students, children, the elderly, visitors feel safe.”

If the drop-in center goes ahead, it should have clear goals and be a direct route to housing or participation in other city services through coordinated entry, some argued.

“One of the measures of success should be…getting people to coordinated entry or other services,” Boulder resident Karen Hollweg said at the Aug. 24 meeting. “Our first program in the city to get people out of homelessness is the Coordinated Entry Program.”

At this point, Council Member Nicole Speer referenced the results of Boulder City Court’s Community Court Program, which allows clients to have their quality of life cases dismissed in exchange for the execution of sanctions aimed at addressing the root causes of homelessness and barriers to housing.

Community Court Navigators go to places where trust has been built, like Feet Forward’s weekly outreach events in Boulder’s Central Park.

And in doing so, he proved himself. Since receiving a grant in 2020, the program reports having helped more than 165 people. Of these, 42 have been housed and 16 others have been matched with housing.

Speer said that was also the end goal of the day service center.

“Having spaces in the community where people can connect and build trust is part of how we help people be housed and connected to services,” she said.

Other work

The day care center is not the only new project aimed at tackling housing and homelessness.

Boulder is also preparing to launch its Recovery Project, which will provide residential and outpatient services to people with significant substance use disorders, as well as the Building Home Project, which will improve housing retention for people living in permanent supportive housing.

Additionally, the Boulder Shelter for the Homeless acquired permanent supportive housing for people who are considered high users of the criminal justice system and who experience chronic homelessness.

Once Boulder wraps up its engagement efforts around the day shelter, solidifies programming and services, and finds a suitable location, it will begin to open the center to homeless people. The day center is scheduled to start in 2023.

: A common area on the first floor used for charging phones and other activities is seen at the Boulder Shelter for the Homeless on Friday.  (Matthew Jonas/staff photographer)
: A common area on the first floor used for charging phones and other activities is seen at the Boulder Shelter for the Homeless on Friday. (Matthew Jonas/staff photographer)