Homelessness

Sorting through the complexities of homelessness is a heavy lift for our community. I will bring an empathetic approach to how our community balances safety with how we provide the necessary services to help our unhoused. I am convinced we can both enforce our laws while simultaneously increasing our services for our unhoused. These do not need to be debated as mutually exclusive options. All the research points to the fact that housing ends homelessness.

 

I know there are concerns about safety and the overall numbers of homeless in our community--and rightfully so. Yet it is important for us not to make policy decisions based on the fear that arises from the actions of a few that taint the reputation of the majority of homeless in our community. We need to be mindful not to make gross generalizations about our unhoused.  We, like many cities around the country, have a wide spectrum of unhoused for various reasons ranging from physical, mental, social, or economic distress. Therefore, our approach to homlessness needs to be as varied as the reasons that cause it. 

 

Both our city and county The City/County are effectively implementing the "Coordinated Entry" system. Run through the county and our Boulder Shelter for the Homeless this program is effective, but only to a point; a significant portion of our unhoused are not served by this program. 

 

Here are my positions on key topics surrounding OR relating to our unhoused populations:

 

  • I do not support continued encampment sweeps, unless we have somewhere for our unhoused to go. These sweeps are not a long term solution and only push our unhoused to another location, only to be swept again days or weeks later. In many cases it is the instability these people face with their tents getting swept and broken down that inhibits their ability to get the services we offer and they need. All of the options below are cheaper than hiring more police officers to enforce our camping bans.

    • Potential solutions include:

      • Opening up a day shelter. Our current shelter kicks everyone out during the day and this results in many spilling back out into the streets. Boulder used to operate a day shelter. The benefits of this program outweigh the costs.

      • Sanctioned camping grounds. This solution is growing in popularity and efficacy around the country. It is also the least costly to our city budget.

      • Buying/leasing hotels to house our homeless. This solution works to leverage the space and housing we already have to provide instant stability to our unhoused.

  • Boulder should recalibrate our "Housing First" policy and programs as it is too restrictive. A successful Housing First program usually predicates itself on making housing the very first thing provided to people who are unhoused. Research shows that individuals with a stable roof over their head are far more likely to accept services and therefore get out from being homeless. Our Housing First program doesn't quite follow this model as it has some barriers to entry that exclude an unacceptably large number of unhoused from being allowed to enter the shelter and thus receive services. Here are the factors that would deny a person access to our shelter and Housing First Program:

    • If a person is not sober

    • If a person has a dog

    • Trauma related issues that intrinsically prohibit a person from feeling safe in a shelter.

 

  • Providing basic human needs dramatically improves one's quality of life and therefore increases the chances of stability. We have to both get creative as well as look back at things we used to do. A couple things jump out as simple steps we could do that would help our unhoused by making it easier for them to gain stable housing and the services they need.

    • Hygiene: Many communities, including Denver, are investing in portable showers. So many health issues are created and/or exacerbated by poor hygiene.  

    • Greater access to food: There used to be a half dozen or more places around downtown for our unhoused to get a meal. Now we are down to one or  two. This places stress on our unhoused, making it even harder for them to get the stability they need.

 

As emotions run deep on this issue, I will prioritize listening to our local professionals from the Boulder Shelter, non-profits, individuals with lived experience being homeless, mental health providers, our faith community, and the Boulder Police Department. I will be empathetic and leverage my scientific expertise to focus on evidence-based decision-making to navigate a balanced approach that demonstrates we are investing in our values!

 

Boulder can't do it alone. We need the County to step up and really lead regional solutions that will help not only Boulder but also our sister communities. Let's make both the City of Boulder andBoulder County a model for the rest of the country!