Boulder City Council Set To Reconsider Weather Shelter Expansion

As part of its “Homelessness Strategy Update,” Boulder City Council will consider a proposal from one of its members this week to keep the city’s Severe Weather Shelter open every day during cold-weather months, and not just on days when the temperature falls below a predetermined threshold. KGNU’s Roz Brown says Boulder’s homeless advocates have circulated a petition to support the proposal.

It’s been a year since Boulder councilmembers rejected a proposal to expand services offered by the city’s only severe weather shelter to better help those experiencing homelessness. But the proposal will get another hearing this week, put forward a second time by councilman Aaron Brockett. Right now the severe weather shelter only opens when the temperature is forecast to drop below 32 degrees, which Darren O’Connor with Boulder Rights Watch argues is random and dangerous.

“Temperature threshold is based on weather forecasts, and sometimes they’re wrong and it’s warmer and sometimes it’s colder than what’s forecast so even if you agree it should be based on temperature, it’s still a dangerous policy,” said O’Connor.

The severe weather shelter debate will be part of a larger “Homelessness Strategy Update” to Boulder City Council. Ahead of the meeting, Boulder Rights Watch started a petition it encouraged people to sign if they agree that council should provide funds to operate the severe weather shelter every night in the late fall, winter and spring. O’Connor says the petition also encourages council to be prepared with replacement beds when it closes temporary homeless services on 30th Street in a few months.

“The Path to Homeless services are going to be closed down after May,” said O’Connor. “That building where they’re offered on 30th Street will be leveled and turned into housing. That’s great that eventually there may be more housing for people with vouchers. But without that building, there will be fewer basic services for our homeless so our petition also calls on council to replace those.”

After a judge ruled last week that Denver’s controversial urban camping ban is unconstitutional – the same ban in effect in Boulder – local officials argued Boulder’s ordinance could withstand a legal challenge because the city’s shelters have an adequate number of beds for its homeless population. O’Connor says that’s hard to verify.

“This year, despite placing more people in housing in Boulder – the ‘point in time count’ conducted each January identified 600 homeless individuals in Boulder County, a far higher number than the approximately 250 available beds,” said O’Connor.

Despite success in finding permanent housing for more than 300 homeless people in the past two years, 48 people died in 2018 while, or after, being homeless on the streets of Boulder – twice the number from previous years.

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