Check out market updates

Boulder business leaders lay out framework to deal with homelessness

BOULDER — Boulder business leaders have written a framework to address homelessness in Boulder, with the intent of using it to help craft a detailed plan for the community.

The Boulder Chamber, Downtown Boulder Partnership and Visit Boulder on Friday released a summary of the framework.

“The goals, principles and key action steps (that) our framework offers are clear,” John Tayer, president and CEO of the Boulder Chamber, said in a written statement. “With compassion for those who are unhoused and the services that provide pathways to meeting their needs, we must also address the impacts that our homelessness crisis is having on Boulder’s businesses and residents.”

While acknowledging in the framework report that they are not experts, they set out to work toward meeting several goals, including:

  • Saving lives.
  • Eliminating criminal activity.
  • Protecting public spaces from homeless encampments.
  • Providing pathways for the unhoused to find services.
  • Securing a safe, clean environment.

“When we cannot connect people in our community to service and ultimately shelter and housing, we feel the impact in our public spaces, parks, and commercial districts,” said Chip, CEO of Downtown Boulder, who does not use a surname.

The policy framework makes clear a determination to end the impacts that homelessness has had on business operations. “Businesses are suffering and are being subjected to increased crime,” said Charlene Hoffman, CEO of Visit Boulder. “Our treasured community assets, such as our parks, Boulder Creek Path, and retail areas must be safe and welcoming to all.”

The framework includes multiple broad categories that business leaders would like to see included in the overall strategy for the community. They are:

  • Preventing homelessness through increases in housing of all types and identifying at-risk individuals before they become homeless.
  • Activating public spaces with events, temporary use of vacant commercial properties, increasing lighting and patrols.
  • Stepping up homeless outreach by building on what already is being done, expanding dispatchable outreach and improving coordination between providers and impacted businesses.
  • Considering sheltering options to provide a 24 hour, seven day approach that could include things like use of homeless pods, tiny homes and other approaches that other communities have used.
  • Providing a continuum of services using a support service center, individualized case management, support for mental health treatment including approaches such as the new Larimer County behavioral health campus.
  • Increasing enforcement, considering new laws about illegal camping, expunging records where appropriate, and treating law enforcement as a partner in homeless abatement.
  • Avoid a magnet effect.

Proponents of the framework acknowledged that the plan doesn’t provide all the answers. 

“We have specific solutions, such as 24-hour homeless shelter operations, a day services center and activation of public spaces,” Chip said. “In other areas, such as mental health and substance abuse disorder services, we are committed to collaborating with other civic and nonprofit partners to determine the best path forward.” 

“… We need to support our law enforcement and judicial system officials in their effort to strategically and consistently respond to homelessness impacts on our businesses and residents,” Hoffman said.

“The bottom line (is that) the business community is united in recognizing that solutions to homelessness will entail both robust services and thoughtful enforcement measures, and we are at the table in support of policies, programs and investments that will meet those needs,” Tayer said.

Source: BizWest