Homeless Shelter Implements Controversial Rules for Gaining Access to Beds

Friends of Nicole Sisneros honor her after her death at a memorial at the Boulder Bandshell in 2015. Sisneros had experienced homelessness in both Boulder and Denver.

Friends of Nicole Sisneros honor her after her death at a memorial at the Boulder Bandshell in 2015. Sisneros had experienced homelessness in both Boulder and Denver.

Those who are experiencing or have experienced homelessness have expressed their criticism for new rules that have been adopted by the Boulder Shelter for the Homeless for the current season.


(photo: cuindependent)

The shelter will now refuse services to “walk-ups” and will require those who need a bed to register their request by phone or by computer.

The group Boulder Rights Watch (BRW) that includes members who have experienced homelessness themselves expressed concern that the new rules impede equitable opportunity to obtain services especially among those who do not own a phone or a computer.  Although it’s the group’s understanding that people new to the shelter will be accepted without reservations, the concern is that people with phones will have filled the shelter to capacity, and thereby will prevent those without access to phones or the internet from obtaining services.

Another member of BRW expressed the concern for seniors who are living without shelter who felt that elders are “often pushed aside or made to feel unwelcome by stronger, younger folks (who are usually male, and usually White)”

Another pointed to the difficulty in charging a cell phone when there are few welcoming places to charge it.  Further challenges in registering for a bed by computer are similar.  The likely place to charge devices or use library computers are met with library resistance to welcome people with larger backpacks, a sore point that those without shelter have said were attitudes that target the homeless community.

After years of speaking to people on the streets, Boulder Rights Watch estimated that about 60% of those needing services do not have access to a phone, or a working phone.  The group submitted recommendations to the Boulder Shelter for the Homeless administration that the group suggests would help achieve equitable chances for securing a bed for the night:

1. In the immediate future, setting aside half the beds for walk ups. Our concern is those who have phones will get preferential treatment and those with the least resources who haven’t got access to phones and computers on a given day will be out of luck.

2. In the near future, hold a community forum with shelter residents so the people who want to stay overnight can weigh in on what would work best for them. They will know better than anyone.

3. Could phones be distributed to those who qualify as part of the Shelter’s service? Is there another way to do this?

Greg Harms Executive Director of the Boulder Shelter for the Homeless received the recommendations and confirmed to the group that the shelter would not be changing the newly adopted system citing the time necessary to adjust to the changes, “Ultimately, I think it will be a positive for most clients.”

Boulder resident Mik Kamins who has experienced homelessness corresponded with Boulder Rights Watch to affirm his aligning sentiments with the group, “Thank you for speaking on behalf of folks who might need to get into the shelter.  Especially for emphasizing the need that the shelter collaborate with folks that currently are able to use the service and to keep in mind ways to provide access to some who would if they could.  I also really liked how you insist we be treated respectfully, with dignity and awareness of where we are at, in terms of how hard it is to get/keep a working phone or internet access.”


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