Boulder Residents Want a Safety First Approach to Homelessness

“We cannot enforce our way out of homelessness.”  Boulder Police Chief, Greg Testa


Boulder City Council met Tuesday to discuss fine-tuning a management plan for the city’s homeless shelter.  But as Roz Brown reports, several citizens attended to air their concerns about what council should do to improve public safety due to the growing homeless population in Boulder.


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“Build and they will come,” says Carolyn Usher.  “You keep providing more and more services and more and more people will come to take advantage of them – Boulder is known for that.”

Usher says she’d like to see a moratorium on any new services to the homeless unless they’re Boulder residents.

“We’ve always had the homeless here, but now we have a huge population of homeless and transients and we’ve made ourselves popular.  And my hope would be to take care of the legitimately homeless and not give the others a reason to stay on.”

For months the city has been negotiating terms of a management plan for Boulder’s homeless shelter on north Boulder to find a better way to help the homeless, without making them permanently dependent on city services. Chris Centeno is more concerned about keeping his family safe than providing more services for the homeless. His story about finding a transient who’d been living in his basement for a few days went viral after he wrote a letter describing the incident to the Boulder Daily Camera.  Centeno’s wife and 17-year old daughter were alone in the house when the man was discovered and the police were called.

“This constant expansion of services is a magnet for transients – just like the guy in my basement or the guy who sexually assaulted a woman running on the creek path last year.”

Centeno is organizing a group called “Safe Boulder” and says many others have expressed interest because they no longer feel safe in Boulder.

“We now have 50-100 citizens who have contacted us to say we need to stop this expansion of services.  We need to help Boulder residents who have fallen on hard times, but we also need to organize to bring the whole city together because the people who live here are frightened to walk on the streets and it’s getting out of control.”

Council members asked Boulder Police Chief Greg Testa if he would recommend having a satellite office in north Boulder like those near the Pearl Street Mall and University Hill.  He says Boulder police receive around 120-thousand calls each year from city residents but not necessarily more from north Boulder.

“We’ve had an increase in call volume throughout the whole city, but I am not aware of an increase in calls around the Boulder Homeless Shelter.”

Under the new plan the homeless shelter would open 160 beds year-round for homeless people classified as having “moderate” or “high” needs. The shelter will also de-emphasize emergency services which means homeless people will register at the center for a coordinated entry system with the goal of referring those in need to appropriate paths out of homelessness or toward agencies that can help them. Carolyn Usher was encouraged by the new approach.

“I like that the city council said they have changed their policy and instead of doing a lottery for the shelter will identify people who want to help themselves and move up and out. That’s the way it should be.”

No final decisions were made at Tuesday’s meeting but council seemed to agree that they want a set number of “sexually violent predators” who can live at the shelter at any one time.

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