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Sep 23, 2020 120 tweets 14 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
Severe weather sheltering is next. That's what Boulder calls winter shelter for people experiencing homelessness, because it's typically triggered by the weather, not necessarily the season.

Staff presentation:…
And my story, for review.…
I wrote "normally" triggered by weather. This year, they are suggesting all-night sheltering from Dec. 1- March 15, which is the coldest part of the winter, and then weather dependent (below 32 or 38 with rain/snow) for Oct. 1-Nov. 30 and March 16 - May 31
The big issue tonight is: Should Boulder Shelter take over winter sheltering? It's been a standalone location for the past several seasons (well, first it was a bunch of locations, then one centralized location)
Consolidating it into one place, Boulder Shelter, will reduce the available beds by about half from last season, bc they already took over Navigation Services
Some other big changes this year: Winter sheltering won't be available to everyone on a walk-in basis. You'll HAVE to go through coordinated entry (the screening process for services) after one night of utilizing winter shelter.
Many unhoused residents are resistant to that. Many don't care for the Boulder Shelter, which they report has a hostile culture. In therapy speak, it's not trauma-informed. Which is important when you're working with traumatized populations.
It's kind of a "meet people where they are" approach vs. what some report from Boulder County's approach, which is "Here's where we are. Come here, do this or get left out."
Anyway, back to the plan. Unlike when there were standalone locations, there is no overflow plan. The plan is to use hotel rooms (up to 40, but at least 20) ONLY for those considered high risk for COVID.
And 20 of those will only be available on "critical weather" nights (below 10 degrees or 6+ inches of snow) and again, only to high-risk populations.

Staff said many unhoused residents are high risk, due to age or pre-existing conditions.
Since, you know, being homeless is really hard on your body. Takes decades off your life. A general rule of thumb is 10 years for every 1 year of homelessness.
OK gotta walk my whiny dog but I'll be back for discussion.
Crap missed the start of council qs, but I know the answer to the one Brockett is asking: the shelter will only be open during the day on critical weather days (below 10 degrees and/or 6+ inches of snow expected)
Bridge House had day services when it operated winter sheltering, because exec director Isabel McDevitt said it's important to have a home base for unhoused residents to work on a plan for getting housing.
Friend asking about max beds last year vs this year
Let year: 282 beds
This year: 195 BUT that includes the COVID recovery center, so 180 BUT that only includes critical weather beds (20 hotel rooms) and 20 rooms for those at risk under COVID
72 beds last year were for severe weather sheltering, specifically. 50 were for navigation.

Boulder Shelter taking over both of those, and they have capacity for ~140 beds, total. Plus 20 hotel rooms for those at-risk of COVID, regardless of the weather.
Friend asking about the new coordinated entry requirement to access winter sheltering. Does everybody qualify for coordinated entry? I know there's a 6 month residency requirement for some things.
Vicki Ebner: I think one of the things that gets misconstrued is what CE is. It's a screening process. "We're merely asking you go though that screening process" to access winter sheltering, not requiring anyone to go through the programs.
Friend: Is anybody who goes through CE going to not be eligible for winter sheltering?
Ebner: No. Once you've gone through it, you've gone through it. I think you're getting at the ppl who are not meeting our six-month residency requirements. They still qualify for Diversion.
Friend: So if somebody comes through CE right now, and they don't do anything with it, they can still come to severe weather sheltering in two months?
Ebner: We don't expire those dates. If somebody has been in the community over 2 years, we can reassess them.
Ebner: In 2018-2019, over 85% of people who used winter sheltering had been through coordinated entry.
The only caveat I would give is that back then, we didn't have the six-month residency requirement, so I think you'd see a different mix going forward.
Friend: So somebody can go through the screening and there's no requirements or anything they need to be compliant with to stay at the winter shelter?
Ebner: That is true. Of course we prefer people engage with our services to help them with their homelessness.
Ebner: They do have to comply with shelter rules.
Friend: Are the rules different than at Bridge House?
Ebner: They're very similar. Boulder Shelter has a little more structured plan on how they actually do any kind of response.
Kurt Firnhaber, director of housing and human services: The median individual who goes to winter shelter stays there 3-4 nights in a season, but there are people who stay much longer, who are part of our community and use it as their shelter on a more ongoing basis.
Friend: What time is the cutoff to access winter sheltering?
Greg Harms, Boulder Shelter director: Normal curfew times apply. 5-7 p.m.
Friend: What was it at Bridge House?
Ebner: They didn't have a curfew until the last year. I believe it was 9 p.m. and then it moved up to 8 p.m.
Ebner: Traditionally they found by 7-7:30 they were fully booked anyway. There are the rare occasions the police might bring somebody. Getting ppl voluntarily coming up, they're going to come earlier.
Firnhaber: There's an important component that's new this year, which is screening for COVID symptoms.
It's "very difficult" to run that process if we leave the hours open longer, Firnhaber says.
Friend: Critical weather triggers, 10 degrees seems pretty cold to me given that the libraries aren't open this year. Was any consideration given to that?
Firnhaber: Yes, that's why we added day services (on critical weather days — and they'll stay open until 11:30 a.m.)
Firnhaber: At 30th Street (under Bridge House) they opened in the middle of the day for 3-4 hours, then it had to be cleaned after.
Harms: Normally we'd close at 8 a.m., now we're proposing Dec. 1- March 15 staying open until 11:30 a.m., or all day when those really critical weather conditions are met.
Friend: It would seem to me that 10 degrees is pretty cold for critical. I would think there are health hazards at a higher temperature. I understand 10 degrees is the longstanding threshold, but given that a lot of the places ppl might go ordinarily are not open...
... What's the discussion on raising that temp threshold?
Friend: "If it's 12 degrees and I have to leave, I don't know where I would go."
Swetlik: What's the chance of precipitation that triggers winter sheltering at 38 degrees?
Ebner: 30% chance or higher
Hmm... did not know that.
Swetlik: There are people who can't go to the shelter. People with pets, maybe couples. They won't be allowed in winter sheltering, right?
Harms: "There are always people we can't serve, for a number of reasons."
Harms: We permit service animals but not pets. We do serve married couples but they have to stay in separate dormitories.
Brockett: I've raised the issue about what overflow would look like during this sheltering season. As I understand it, on critical weather nights, we'll have 20 additional beds in hotels for people that will make room at the shelter, correct?
Firnhaber: Yes
Brockett: What do we do if it's just a regular night, not 10 degrees, and we have more people looking for shelter than we have rooms for?
Firnhaber: "That situation can happen no matter what our triggers are and how many beds we have. There's always that risk of turnaways."
Firnhaber: "The communication for a lot of individuals who are homeless, who travel, it's important for them to know" what the limitations are on number of beds.
Firnhaber: We gave updates every 2-3 weeks last winter. I certainly hope we don't have to do that this year, but we will be monitoring to see if issues arrive.
Brockett: "Updates would be important but Kurt I don't think you answered the question. If we get 3 more ppl than those 100 beds, do we have any options?"
Firnhaber: Well first of all it's 160 beds
Brockett: Thanks for the correction, but the question still stands.

OHHHH Brockett pulling out his Pushy Reporter side! You go girl.
Firnhaber: There may be turnaways early in the season, which is important to happen before the weather gets too cold. "If you always provide a bed for everyone who comes every night and you keep expanding, it does increase the number of individuals ...
.... until you get to a point you can't expand anymore, then you have a huge number of turnaways."
So his answer is... we have to provide less than we need or else people will keep needing it...? This way, people learn that we're not providing anything.
Wallach: What's Longmont doing?
Firnhaber: Longmont doesn't have severe weather sheltering. Many communities don't, if they have a housing first approach. Our weather triggers are 10-15 degrees higher than other communities.
Ebner: Denver has the most generous number: 40 degrees, but their beds-to-population number is significantly lower than ours. JeffCo, Adams, etc. use 20 degrees, or 32 if it's raining or snowing.
Wallach: Why do people resist coordinated entry? If it gets you 30 days of shelter, why resist? And who is resisting?
Ebner: There are a number of reasons. Mental illness, distrust of systems, fear factor of being in a congregate setting. Maybe they have something that precludes their use, like a pet.
Wallach: If the need is likely to exceed demand and the weather coming in is "so brutal" you have to provide some backup plan, how quickly could you do that?
Ebner: Our nonprofits are very reactive, but it's a matter of staffing.
Even in hotels, we have to have people checking on them, she says. And it's a matter of availability at hotels.
Ebner: If it were to get "extremely bad" where we needed to open a second facility, that would take a little more time. We set up the COVID recovery center in 4 days.
Firnhaber: We could add a few hotel rooms with relatively short notice.
Firnhaber: "A different facility, that's a huge lift." There are very few places in Boulder where you can have people sleep bc you have to have a fire sprinkler system.
Weaver: Why are we expecting the number of people directed to housing-focused shelter to increase by 20-30 in the winter?
Firnhaber: Those numbers typically go up in the winter. We took the historical increase and then added 5%
Friend: If we reduce capacity by 100 beds, where did the $$ savings from that go? How did that impact our budget?
Firnhaber: "We increased our funding into housing this year."
Friend: Was it a 1-for-1 increase? Are there 100 extra people housed because of that $$?
Firnhaber: It's not a 1-for-1, it's about 2-3 people you need to house to get a permanent 1 person reduction at the Shelter.
Friend: What's the communication strategy for people who need winter sheltering? How are we getting info to people who need it?
Harms: We'll be using v similar approaches to what we've done in the past.
Harms: We will make the call 24 hrs in advance during the winter season. But unlike last year, we'll be open every year Dec. 1 - March 15, so the need for communication will be far less; there will be far less uncertainty.
Firnhaber: People primarily hear about it through services they access. Typically when the leave the shelter for the day, they know if it will be open that night because the weather has already been forecast.
Friend: During the last cold snap, people reached out to me to say they didn't know where to look and did want to trek north to find the shelter at capacity. Will there be updates on capacity to let ppl know whether it's worth it to enter the lottery?
Harms: No. We've not done that in the past and "it's very difficult to do bc we can have 20-30 ppl show up at a quarter to 7. I'm afraid we'd mislead more people than we'd help if we tried to do that."
Yates: If we were a couple 2-3 beds short on a particular night, do we have a mutual aid agreement with some of the other shelters? For instance, in Longmont?
Ebner: Longmont doesn't run a winter shelter
Yates: But they have beds though, right?
Ebner: They do emergency shelter on cold nights.

So... like severe weather shelter? The semantics, I tell you.
The answer is no. Longmont is likely to be at capacity if Boulder is, Ebner says. And "transportation becomes a problem. ... Getting people up the highway" in bad weather "becomes very dangerous."

But they can explore should council wish.
Joseph: Can we keep stats on how many people don't want to go through coordinated entry or are declined service because of that?
Firnhaber: Yes.
Guys I lost internet give me a second I'll be back. Oh the joys of travel.
Ebner: The reality of unhoused life, you leave the shelter in the morning, you go to Harvest of Hope for lunch. Typically people using our shelter do have patterns of behavior and they have ways of making things work.
Ebner: Harvest of Hope does limit the time you can be in there. It's really picking up food and leaving.

That was in response to a Young q, which I missed bc internet.
No more qs. Now council discussion.

Friend: I'm pretty concerned about the lack of day services, given that libraries are closed. Idk what the solution is, but 10 degrees just seems too cold.
"10 degrees doesn't seem right."
Friend: It seems that if we're requiring coordinated entry screens for people to access winter sheltering, that's a change that begs discussion and motivation. I hope council dialogues about that. And does that need to be done this year? 2020 has already been so...
And how did we get to the cap of 30 nights max for winter sheltering? she asks (I missed that in the notes, apparently)
Friend: "I don't tend to be in the majority of council on this subject so I don't know how important it is to say what I'd like to see happen."
Intentional was the word she used re: requiring coordinated entry screening.
Wallach: "I'd be most interested in what you'd like to see happen. We're always looking for solutions, and I'd like to know."
Friend: I would not have coordinated entry be a requirement. Maybe in a future year; "we know it's an extra burden for people." With everything going on already in 2020, I'd wait.
And reducing shelter beds by 100, "that seems like a sharp reduction and what we've seen around town this year doesn't leave me to believe we're going to have a precious few people seeking shelter. My prediction is we're going to be turning people away."
"We were already turning people away last year" with more beds, she says.
And why the 30-day cap? she asks. What's the rationale? And to Swetlik's point, there are people who can't access shelter. "How do we treat people with dignity and compassion, especially when it's lethally cold out."
Yates: I endorse staff's recommendation. I would not propose any changes to what staff is recommending.
Yates: We tried last spring to take all comers without requirement and "it was a mess. ... Coordinated entry is just a registration, that's all it is. It doesn't require you to do anything than give your name and your background."
Sheltering under BoHo "ended up hurting more people than it helped. Or at least ended up hurting a lot of people."
Yates: Our weather triggers are higher than our peer cities, so people tend to migrate here. "Mathematically, we can't take all comers. We have to have some sort of guardrails on what we'll do."
Does want more updates from staff, maybe at the beginning of winter and then mid-winter. And some "super standby" backup plan if we are "just a couple beds short on a particular night."
Obviously if we have 50 ppl show up we don't have beds for, that's a different problem, he says.
Brockett: We are down quite a few beds this year and I'm concerned we're going to fall "a fair amount short" on need this year. Path to Home last year "provided backup and reinforcement. ... I'm really concerned we've lost that ability."
Brockett: "If we're consistently 3 or 5 or 8 beds short, I don't want those folks turned out into the cold night after night after night. I get that we can't serve (everyone), but I'd like to see some flexibility, some options."
Also concerned with the lack of day services. And 10 degrees is such a low temperature. Can we change that threshold or have another day spot open?
Brockett: I do think it makes sense to require coordinated entry screening, after one grace night. "It's pretty doable."
Swetlik: "To have a lottery system (for shelter beds), it feels very Hunger Games-y to me. You're essentially choosing who gets to survive every night."
Oh my.
That's not a criticism of local staff, he says, but of the larger system. I hope state and feds step up.

Shares Friend's and Brockett's concerns.
"Surviving just over 10 degrees even during the day is a difficult task," Swetlik says.
Weaver: This is a much more focused system than we had when I got on council in 2013.
Weaver: "I think this is a good place to start. It's never going to be good enough. We cannot solve national and regional problems with limited local resources. (Quoting Harms there) ... There will always be people falling through the cracks."
Let's not let perfect be the enemy of good, Weaver says, trotting out one of council's favorite things to say.
Weaver: BoHo became the place of choice for people to go bc it wasn't as far north and "there were no rules. Or a smaller set of rules."
Weaver: "Long-term solutions have to look toward long-term problems."
Generally OK with the 30-day cap on winter sheltering, per residents. We're seeing more people who have been here less than 6 months.
Weaver: "When we have to make tough decisions about who to serve with limited resources, we have to start with" the people who have the "most attachments" to our community.
I've been against lottery systems since I got on council, he says, but this lottery is different because it prioritizes the most vulnerable.
"It's now the last thing being used as opposed to the only thing being used," Weaver says.
"The situation is better than it's been. We do have less beds than last year and there is COVID. Both of those are areas of concern." (Still Weaver)
Weaver to staff: "You don't get thanked enough, you get criticized quite a bit."
Yates and Weaver ask for a weekly update of this dashboard:…
Those staff members were furloughed, Firnhaber says. We had no one to do that for about 6 weeks.
Friend "gently" counters Weaver that we had "de facto" day shelters via the libraries, which are closed this year. And we did have day shelter for awhile... we lost it like 2016-2018 but it was there before that, according to the Daily Camera archives I looked through.
Young: In the past, "we weren't housing people."
I think Weaver(?) suggesting reaching out to the faith community, which used to provide sheltering before the 2017 overhaul, to provide some day shelter this year. Young likes that idea and suggests BHP housing at Lee Hill. It's all formerly unhoused folks.
Young's all good with staff recommendations: 30-day cap (most people aren't staying that many days) requiring coordinated entry screening (that's how we've gotten so many people into housing)
Wallach: Staff's proposals are "excellent" "nuanced" and "addressing the problem as best we can."
But is concerned about 10 degrees for critical weather, triggering day services. It would be OK if you nudged that a bit higher, he says.
Joseph: OK with requiring coordinated entry; not OK with having no day shelter. The 10 degree trigger is too low.
And that is the end of this discussion. Winter sheltering will start in <2 weeks, Oct. 1. Weather-dependent, of course, until Dec. 1.
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