ACLU demands changes to Boulder’s ‘inhumane’ homelessness policies

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BOULDER, Colo. (KDVR) — The American Civil Liberties Union is making very direct demands on Boulder’s homelessness policies, some of which city officials said they’re already starting to change.

Boulder is a great place to live — it’s even been ranked so a few times. But if you haven’t lived in town long enough — and you’re homeless — city rules say you just can’t stay at a shelter.

“Generally, (Boulder) excludes anyone who has been a Boulder County resident for less than six months from accessing the shelter,” ACLU of Colorado attorney Annie Kurtz said.

Boulder to change shelter rules

On Thursday, Kurtz drafted a letter demanding leaders in Boulder change that policy, and others, to make the city a place where everyone can live — even people with no permanent shelter.

“On Aug. 9, there will no longer be a residency requirement to stay at the shelter during the summertime,” said Kurt Firnhaber, the city’s director of Housing and Human Services.

Firnhaber said city leaders decided in June to change the shelters’ residency requirement.

Starting in August, any person without a home may stay at a shelter.

Policy discussions to continue

“At this point we’re just hoping that the city will honestly engage with our letter,” Kurtz said.

Firnhaber said the city has had discussions with the ACLU and wants this conversation to remain open-ended.

“It’s not new for us to be reviewing and interrogating our own policies,” Firnhaber said.

Boulder, he said, keeps track of the number of people without housing.

“There’s typically about 340 individuals in our community that are experiencing homelessness,” Firnhaber said.

He said over the last three years, the city has helped some of those people find more permanent housing.

“The ACLU, as well as us and other stakeholders, really need to work on a much wider scale” to make Boulder, and any community, a great place to live for those with and without homes, Firnhaber said.

“They don’t seem to want to recognize that their unhoused residents call Boulder home, too, and have every right to do so,” Kurtz said.

FOX31 asked the ACLU if their plan to challenge Boulder’s homeless policy ends with just a letter, as they have taken Colorado communities to court on this issue before.

Kurtz said it’s too early to know what the plan could be on the subject.

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