How the Homeless Community of Boulder is Driving Change

Sometimes advocacy has results, and boy, is it gratifying when it does. But to keep it coming, the leaders that have been able to change should be recognized.

There were a number of articles on last year about Boulder’s camping ticket law, and how silly it is to arrest people when they have no legal alternative. The law is, I’m sorry to say, still on the books.

But things are improving for Boulder’s homeless, with the help of local government and a truly energized and empowered group of homeless people.

Boulder Outreach for Homeless Overflow has expanded the number of nights that they operate Emergency Warming Centers. So far this season, they have offered 62 nights, a big increase from last season with a total of 81 nights. The City of Boulder gave them special funding in order to ensure their operation this winter. Best of all, everyone that works for BOHO is either homeless or formerly homeless.

Camping ticket arrests have decreased dramatically, partially due to BOHO and partially due to a change in enforcement. Transportation is now available from the local shelter to the EWC sites, thanks to an agency called Special Transit. This is more important than it sounds, as the average distance from the shelter to the EWC sites is 6 miles.

Boulder County has just developed its 10 Year Plan, which is being ratified by local communities. Sure, it is the 10 Year Plan to ADDRESS Homelessness rather than to end it, and there don’t seem to be a lot of resources available to help it reach its admirable goals, but the dialogue has begun.

Best of all, the homeless community has recognized itself as just that, a community. They attend City Council meetings, organize for change, take their camping ticket cases to court and get involved in all sorts of ways, from community clean-ups to self-care days.

Are all the problems of homeless people in Boulder solved? Far from it! Housing prices are astronomical here and non-tech jobs are scarce. Many services are still needed and we continue to have our yearly homeless memorial for those that die. The dialogue must continue until the deaths cease.

Change isn’t easy, but to sustain change, it is important to recognize the compromise, humility and inclusion of those in power. Thank you to the city leaders and to the larger community of Boulder for listening.

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