Boulder County Homeless Shelters Open Early for Wednesday’s Bomb Cyclone Snowstorm
Area shelters opened early Wednesday during the “bomb cyclone” storm that slammed into the state and that was originally predicted to drop up to 8 inches of snow here.
Although less snow fell than predicted, Boulder County was still hit with high winds and whipping snow . Some Boulder community members on social media and in emails to city council raised concerns about what day sheltering options are available to those experiencing homelessness in the event that other city facilities close before shelters open.
Boulder facilities, including city offices and library branches, closed at noon Wednesday.
In response to the weather and the closures, Boulder Shelter for the Homeless stayed open during the day for just the third time this season to clients who stayed the night before. Bridge House’s facility at 30th Street began admitting people informally around 11 a.m. and made a formal announcement to open its severe weather shelter at 2 p.m., earlier than usual.
Bridge House, which won the contract to operate severe weather sheltering through the city’s competitive bidding process, is slated to open early on predetermined holidays, such as Christmas, when providers know other facilities will be closed.
However, yesterday was unique because facilities were closed with short notice, and the contract does not cover those days, said Isabel McDevitt, Bridge House executive director.
“That’s not part of our contract,” McDevitt said. “That said, we want to meet the needs of the homeless population as much as we can.”
She described it as an omission that could be remedied, and said Bridge House staff made the decision to operate beyond the contract so people could come in earlier. Bridge House and its Path to Home program are regularly open during the day, but not as a designated day shelter.
“As it relates to severe weather shelter, regardless of who is providing the service, I think everyone learned yesterday that this kind of scenario can happen and we need to be prepared for it,” McDevitt said.
Kurt Firnhaber, Boulder director of housing and human services, said the city would examine that provision.
“If that’s a shortfall, that’s something we would certainly be looking at,” Firnhaber said.
City staff and providers said they communicate on severe weather nights — including throughout the day and evening Wednesday — to ensure beds are used between them.
“We coordinated with our sister agencies and the city all day yesterday to make sure we did our best to meet the need,” said Greg Harms, Boulder Shelter CEO. “Fortunately, the storm wasn’t as severe as predicted.”
Wednesday night, 148 people stayed at Boulder Shelter for the Homeless, and 133 people stayed at Bridge House’s facility. No one was turned away, city spokesman Zach McGee said.
There are 210 beds — 160 at Boulder Shelter for the Homeless, and 50 through Bridge House’s Path to Home program — for homeless residents available in the city every night of the year, and another 72 are activated by Bridge House when the weather conditions are met.
Currently, the shelter opens when temperatures are forecast for 32 degrees on dry nights, and 38 degrees when precipitation is expected. So far this season, Boulder weather conditions have triggered severe weather shelter 135 nights, McGee said.
In Longmont on Wednesday, the library closed at 5 p.m., and the Memorial Building remained open overnight as a warming center, according to a city news release.
Thirty-five people stayed at Journey Church, which opened earlier than normal in case more people than usual came, said Joseph Zanovitch, executive director of Homeless Outreach Providing Encouragement, a Longmont-based homeless advocacy organization known as HOPE.
However, most were regular clients, rather than people seeking emergency shelter, he said.
“It seemed like a normal sheltering night,” Zanovitch said.
Boulder City Council in January declined to keep the city’s severe weather shelter open the entire winter season after Councilman Aaron Brockett and Mayor Suzanne Jones proposed it.
Council members at the time said they wanted to wait until a year’s worth of data from the coordinated entry program was available to analyze. They are scheduled to discuss that data at Tuesday’s meeting.
Cassa Niedringhaus: 303-473-1106, email@example.com