Saturday, October 31, 2009

City council members of Boulder meet with the homeless

A forum at a homeless shelter invited city council members of Boulder, Colorado to hear their concerns. Only four of the 13 council members showed up.

Homeless people in Boulder and many parts of the U.S. don't have enough shelter beds available to them. So when they have to sleep outside instead, they often get ticketed or arrested for "camping".

From the Boulder Daily Camera, writer Erica Meltzer details the meeting.

Four of the 13 Boulder City Council candidates -- businessman and endurance athlete Barry Siff, artist and former university professor Jyotsna Raj, Landmarks Board chairman and attorney Tim Plass, and care provider and activist Rob Smoke -- attended the forum at the Carriage House Community Table. Carriage House provides a case manager, access to showers, laundry and computers, and a daytime shelter in downtown Boulder.

Homeless people and their advocates expressed frustration and, at times, flashes of anger over what they see as ignorance, indifference and even hostility from other segments of Boulder society.

On the one hand, there aren't enough shelter beds to accommodate all the homeless in Boulder. On the other hand, sleeping outside is illegal, and homeless people can be ticketed, fined and sentenced to community service for camping.

One man told of being issued a ticket for "camping" because he was sitting on a bench under a tree. Another woman told of being made to wait outside in the snow for over an hour, while other bus passengers without the large backpack that marked her as homeless got to wait inside the bus station.

Case manager Heather Pauze has seen 26 deaths among her clients over the last 18 months. A homeless man was found dead near Walnut and Ninth streets on Wednesday morning. Though the cause of death has not been determined, police believe the weather may have been a factor.

The homeless people at the meeting urged the city to place a moratorium on enforcement of the no-camping rules while changes to the law are considered; provide a central place for people to store belongings, shower and change clothes; and allow the construction of cheap, single-resident housing.

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