While prevention is a first and critical step, it is also necessary for the County to have a sufficient range and quantity of housing opportunities for those who become homeless. Currently, there is limited capacity to meet the shelter and housing needs of homeless individuals in the County. There is one primary shelter, the Boulder Shelter for the Homeless, which has the capacity to hold 160 individuals. This shelter, however, only provides overnight sheltering in the winter months. Moreover, it is typically at capacity and a lottery system is used to determine who will receive a bed on a given night. While the Longmont and Boulder communities have established warming center options during extremely cold weather, there is a general recognition that current shelter capacity is not sufficient for meeting the needs of the homeless in the County.
At the same time, the Housing First approach taken in this plan (see below) does not recommend making significant investments to expand a formal emergency shelter system as a primary means of dealing with the needs of the homeless. While shelters are a critical part of homelessness infrastructure, there can be an over-reliance on their use and they are not cost effective over the long term when compared to permanent and supported housing options. Thus the short-term need to meet emergent shelter needs, particularly in the winter months, must be addressed while also working work on the creation of additional permanent housing solutions.
Other forms of housing that are typically part of a continuum of care include transitional housing and permanent supportive housing. Transitional housing is provided as a temporary place of residence (usually up to two years). However, because this housing is temporary, it is also not considered to be the best investment from a Housing First perspective.
The County currently has a limited stock of transitional housing located in Boulder, Longmont and Lafayette. While this is not sufficient to meet the needs of individuals and families who might benefit from this form of housing, Boulder’s plan focuses on investments in permanent supportive housing stock as this provides a more stable and long term living arrangement for the homeless.
The greatest need, therefore, is for Permanent Supportive Housing. This is a combination of affordable housing with services that help people live more stable and productive lives. This is the preferred approach to housing the homeless, particularly for those identified as chronic, as it provides the most cost-effective and long-term solution for addressing homelessness. However, current limitations in shelter and transitional housing capacity put pressure on the need to quickly increase the supply of Permanent Supportive Housing, which is costly in the short term.
Currently, there are 25 permanent supportive housing units in the county which are managed by the Boulder Shelter for the Homeless. As of this plan’s writing, all units were at capacity. There is an additional 220 “Shelter Plus Care Slots” that are managed by the Mental Health Center Serving Boulder and Broomfield Counties. Shelter Plus Care provides housing and supportive services on a long-term basis for homeless persons with disabilities, (primarily those with serious mental illness, chronic problems with alcohol and/or drugs, and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) or related diseases) and their families who are living in places not intended for human habitation (e.g., streets) or in emergency shelters.
Current estimates suggest the need to add approximately 100 new Permanent Supportive Housing units in the County in order to meet the needs of the Chronic Homeless Population. To reach this goal, however, requires a concerted effort to identify housing opportunities and resources.
Expanding Access to Mental Health, Substance Abuse and other Supportive Services
Improving Infrastructure and the Coordination of Service Delivery
Keeping the Community Engaged
Ensuring Successful Implementation