The Boulder Chamber, Downtown Boulder Partnership and Visit Boulder released a policy statement last week on how they think the city and county should respond to homelessness.
The statement includes supporting a 24/7 shelter (Boulder’s main shelter in North Boulder is closed during the day), increasing patrols along multi-use paths, and studying a pilot program for a “safe outdoor space,” where people would be able to sleep legally in tenets, cars or other forms of temporary shelter.
Boulder Reporting Lab reported on a draft of the policy position last month. It is partially a response to business owners who have said people sleeping in public spaces and entrance ways is affecting their businesses. With additional homeless services, the groups said, they seek to “save lives.” At the same time, additional services could help minimize legal risks for the city if it increases enforcement of its camping ban. The camping ban prohibits homeless people from sleeping in public spaces. Cities that do not provide adequate overnight options for homeless people, while also prohibiting sleeping in public spaces, have faced civil rights challenges under the U.S. Constitution. (The ACLU of Colorado has already sued the city.)
This policy position will be put to the test in the coming months. The City of Boulder has found a vacant office building off Folsom Street where it would like to create a day services center to help homeless people access a range of to-be-decided services — legal aid, storage, showers and navigation services for public assistance. Some businesses have said the city should conduct an economic impact study of how the center would affect the area, in the first murmurings of opposition from neighbors.
While the Boulder Chamber and other business groups are supporting a day center conceptually, they have not endorsed the current location, according to John Tayer, president and CEO of the Boulder Chamber.
Tayer said the chamber is planning to convene a meeting with businesses and city officials to learn more about the project before coming up with a position. “We are one community,” Tayer said. “We need to look for solutions for the community at large while making sure that those solutions do not impact certain neighborhoods.”