The Backstory EP4 Homelessness.mp3
9:02PM Jul 23, 2019
Welcome to the Longmont observers backstory podcast. For every story you hear or read about high profile topic and Longmont, there's always a backstory. It's the story behind the story and in many cases, is more interesting than the story you read about or about what you hear. So this is your opportunity to learn the story behind the story on homelessness in long line. My name is Tim waters, and I've been invited by the observer to moderate conversations with Lamont leaders, activists and policymakers to share the backstory on topics or issues of importance to the community that you might not otherwise get to hear. The observers intent is to host this podcast and share back stories
at least on a monthly basis. The focus of this month's backstory is homelessness. And in this podcast, I have the good fortune to moderate a conversation with three Longmont leaders, who are involved in multiple aspects of reducing housing insecurity, assisting people who have lost their homes to regain self sufficiency and stable housing. Individuals who are chronically homeless and may not be interested in stable housing, and the implications of homelessness not only for the homeless, but for downtown business owners who really depend on the success of their businesses for their livelihoods and are seriously affected by a segment of our homeless population. My guests for this podcast are Karen Roni, director of the city of Long Legs Community Services Department. Joseph Zenovich, Executive Director of hope, homeless outreach, providing encouragement, and Kimberly McKie, Executive Director of the lung month downtown Development Authority. So welcome, Karen, Joseph, and Kimberly, each of you brings important experience and perspectives to this conversation. And I'd like to start by inviting each of you to share a bit of information about yourselves your role in the housing and homelessness issues in London. And why you were invited to participate in this podcast? Karen, you want to start?
Absolutely. So my role with the city of Longmont, as you mentioned, is director of our community services department and our department is really focusing on helping all of our residents to be their best selves and to be able to thrive regardless of what their life circumstances might be. So, so, we have seven different divisions that we do a variety of things, but related to this particular topic, we do work on affordable housing issues. And and also our department is involved in helping to bring together convene facilitate community sectors, to work on complex issues, such as homelessness, where government alone is, is cannot solve this this problem. It takes all of us as as a as a community. And I'm also here, I believe, because I am one of Longmont representatives to our county wide initiative to end homelessness called hold homeless solutions for Boulder County.
Just before we move on you what was the city hosted and you you were the lead in terms of organizing the first of a series of community conversations that started last August, as I recall, August 29, is I think, just just talk a little bit about that experience. And then we'll get into more substance and a range of the issues here. But it'd be helpful for people to know what that was, and kind of what's happened since and for those who were involved in and have been paying attention. Great.
As I mentioned,
issues such as homelessness, it takes all of us as community members and different sectors to come together to figure out what each of us can do. So the community conversations that we hosted beginning on August 29 of last year, was to invite the entire community to, to come together and learn more about what it is that we are already doing in our community to address individuals and households experiencing homelessness. And then to talk about what else should we be doing, and what each of us as community members, could, we could take one more step we could do something beyond our comfort zone to help households who are experiencing homelessness. So we did have a couple of follow up community conversations and meetings. And and we have a couple of groups, kind of grassroots groups that are looking at, you know, what it is that they can do to, to do more outreach in neighborhoods, to also define what we mean about accountability. I think we'll probably talk about that a little bit more today. And, and, and really, I think, also to figure out how people can plug into some additional or existing services, where they might be able to make a direct contribution, either maybe volunteering for hope, other agencies that are working directly with individuals experiencing homelessness,
it's I think, safe to say, and I'm not the expert here, I think probably Joseph is far more it both of you would be close to the to the data. safe to say that the the phenomena of homelessness has been growing across the country, this is not a long month experience, this is an experience, is that correct everywhere. And in the premise for for what you just described is that there is no one outside of Long Island that's going to come in and solve what is a very complex problem or it's bigger than a problem. It's not a problem and solution oriented. It's a big, big challenge that that no one's going to solve this for us. Right or help us overcome the challenge. We're going to this is up to us. It is up to us. All right, Kimberly,
thank you so much for having me. I'm Kimberly from the downtown Development Authority. And the Development Authority is really here to develop and promote a vital and valuable downtown. And that means lots of things. And we felt that the foundation of that is making sure downtown stays clean, safe and vibrant. So we do things to make sure that there's extra cleaning to make sure that people are feeling safe during their experiences. We are here to redevelop downtown. So we do things such as the work with the South Main Station project, Roosevelt, Park, apartments and different things that are making downtown better. But we also work extensively with our downtown business owners. Where we we cross into this realm is certainly we have a group of very compassionate and caring business owners. Sometimes their experiences with folks that are experiencing homelessness or those that aren't when there are bad behaviors that are happening downtown that are deterring business that are deterring people from having a safe welcoming experience down here. That's where it's gotten a little bit more of a challenge, we want to make sure that everyone is safe, including those that are experiencing homelessness that are enjoying downtown, we just want to make sure that that there are expectations I think, as Karen said, and certain standards of behaviors that we can expect when we're in our public spaces. So we have gone into a number of different initiatives working with business owners, I personally have been downtown for eight years and have seen the problem that I have seen people experiencing homelessness get more prevalent, and have seen that kind of growth. And so we've done a number of things from training business owners all the way to some other programs that I'll probably talk about later with ambassadors or majors, right?
acknowledge for you three, you three were invited to represent a whole bunch bunch of different perspectives and experiences on this on this challenge. So Kimberly brings the voice of the downtown business owner, we could have Hoa presidents, we could have the faith community. So there are there are many, many participants both in trying to define and help respond to the challenge. So I appreciate you representing the business community. Joseph, I think you represent a host or range of other perspectives on the provider side. So tell us about you and the work of hope, sir. Hi, everyone.
I'm Joseph Zenovich executive director with hope homeless outreach. And I've been in this position since November of 2016. So fairly new to the role, but not new to the role of working with the homeless population, and being an advocate for them. My work before this was in Los Angeles and Skid Row are obviously they are dealing with a massive problem there. However, the underlying issues of homelessness were pretty much as across the country. Well, we deal with a long one, for the most part is no different than what they deal with in Los Angeles. And one of the one of the important things, one of the one of the most powerful aspects of what I get to do is, I have a very humbling job every day, there are folks coming to your door, that ask for help, they need help, and for a variety of reasons. And their story are all different, but there's always this same silver lining in there that no one ever wanted to be homeless. And really, the humanity of that is, is hard. And for many folks, depending on their journey, they can be helped immediately, some take years. But it's a journey, and everyone's stories is unique and different how they got there. But obviously, what hope does is in important to the community, and how hope started out in Longmont versus where hope is now. And hope runs the only year round overnight Services Center. Right now in online, it's the first that this is the first time that's ever happened for llama, we've had a year round Services Center for homeless population and that in the navigation program, which will go into I'm sure more later as far as what that program entails.
So just we'll drill down just a bit on some of those not the individual stories, but the the drivers of homelessness. There's not one thing that leads to housing and security and homelessness. It's a combination or variety of potential drivers from your own perspectives. And you can just weigh in here as you want to. If this is a growing, I don't have the data, I think it's a fit. It's a growing phenomenon. So what's driving that not just in Longmont across the country? I didn't bring it home, what do we see driving that locally?
Well, I will speak from hopes perspective on this is that a lot of the folks that we see
it's a mix.
Colorado is a big travel destination. So we will see folks that unfortunately get stuck here for a variety of reasons. There's some stories of there was a young man that we helped recently who traveled here with his girlfriend, and I'm not sure what happened but as they're out of rest up and his girlfriend took the truck and left and he was stranded here. You know that's it was a really unfortunate story. We got him back on his feet and got him to where he needed to go. But there's stories of that nature where folks will come here because Colorado has a lot of opportunity. And they'll they'll try to make it boulders a big destination. So because of folks coming to Boulder Longmont natural receive some folks that are that are coming. And there are there aspects as far as we know, home the housing, I mean that we all know that that's a big issue. And we can dive, there's a whole other topic there as far as affordable housing, right. But yeah, there are folks that get out that get out priced, they can't afford rent anymore. And then they end up they end up being homeless. Of course there is the mental health issue that actually has to be addressed. That's a big, big factor. That right now that there are not enough resources to handle the mental health aspects that we deal with on a daily basis. And of course, that covers addiction, which can be in itself a controversial topic as far as what came first, you know, the the addiction cause homelessness, or did they have the addiction after they became homeless? And the answer is both? There's no clear answer on that. But yes, there there are so many factors that we see every single day.
before we're finished, we're going to drill down on a couple of these things in particular will come back to the housing Karen.
And and I would like to talk about the the housing. So to to build on some of Josephs comments that, you know, I guess in its simplest form, is that, you know, homelessness is really about the lack of housing that people can afford. And I know that sounds simple, and it's very, very complicated as we know, in in Longmont since 2010, the average median price of a home has increased by 91%. So as Joseph mentioned, a lot of people who were able to maintain some kind of stable housing in our community, because of our thriving economy. The unintended consequence is that many individuals, many households we're seeing can no longer live in in Longmont and Boulder County, and in many, many, obviously many states throughout throughout our country. So we are so that is really our you know, our challenge in Boulder County we have over 52,000 households who are cost burdened by their housing, meaning they are spending more than 50% of their income on housing. And it is it is a it is a huge issue. And I guess the good news is as a county, and certainly Longmont we have a regional affordable housing strategy that we are all working on all of the elected officials, all the communities are committed to addressing this as an entire region, which is which is is great, and which is really encouraging. It will take time. And it is a complex issue, as Joseph mentioned, because there so many individual stories. And if I am vulnerable, maybe I'm struggling with the behavioral health issue, a medical issue, some other kind of issue, it just makes it that much more difficult to be able to stay housed in, in, in the environment in which we are living right now.
So the if we were to just connect a couple of dots,
one might ask, Well, how did we get so far behind in terms of housing inventory, right, the kind of stock that's available, or inventory that's available in the market in the market? Connect a couple of those dots. I mean, some of that goes back to policy decisions made at the federal level in the 70s. And in the 80s. Right up to a recession, right in 2008. And connect a couple of those dots if I don't want to put you on the spot to recall recount what happened decades ago, but the federal government has took a big step back several steps back over time.
You want to pick it up from there?
Well, I think that
Yeah. It's it's hard to describe what what all has happened. But But certainly, there has been a reduction in some of the investments from our federal government, in, you know, in housing and in, in supportive housing, I think as as a community as llama as a community. Ever since I've been here, and I've been here for quite a while going on 30 years, you know, we have had commitments locally, to really address the affordable housing issue. And, and certainly, policies have have changed over time. But I think what we have remained I think steadfast is we we do want to make sure that everyone in the alumni community has stable housing, and where we have had challenged changes and shifts over time is what's the best way to, to to approach that. And I think the other thing is that with what we have seen since we came out of the recession, which has been a positive thing, but with those skyrocketing housing costs, that we have not as a, you know, as a society, been able to keep up with wages commensurate with increases in, you know, in, in, in housing. So the so we are we are encouraged, I think in the alumni community, we have re instituted what we call inclusion, airy housing, which was a policy we did have in place in the late 90s, up until up until about 2010. And, and it's in its back. And we really look at all different kinds of investments and ways that we can keep our current affordable housing stock, affordable, as well as how we can bring new affordable units online and available to the community. So it is also I think everything I do is complex and complicated. And but the good thing is the community continues to work, work the problem work the issues and, and are really in it for the long term.
Yeah, every once in a while in these conversations, I take just a moderator head on and put a calculator
which I'm going to do right,
you know that that is your job.
Part of what the community might know is that the long line is has taken really a lead in terms of a package not just an ordinance, but a variety of things, a combination of mandates with assets to hopefully keep people building. But in that context, no matter what happens as a result of that policy or that package. There is a there's a put the pushback from some aspects or elements in the community is about growth, right? put a halt on it stop growing, we don't want to see more growth among mine because of all of the the traffic congestion in the in the complexity to go along with growth. But you can't have it both ways. You can't increase housing, affordability, your housing stock that's accessible to working families, and and folks below certain income levels, you can't do that. And stop growing, right? So there's an interesting tension that we're going to have to work through as a community. So the most visible segment of the housing, or the homeless population, and those are housing insecure, are those who are chronically homeless. So we'll come back to that in a minute. But there are other segments as well. Talk about the other segments, and how we're thinking now about the range of because not every segment needs the same response. So what's the range of responses for the various segments, in addition to we'll come back to the chronically homeless, in addition to the chronically homeless?
Who wants to start,
I'll jump in on this one. So the public should know
that several of us have been in this conversation seriously for a couple of Friday mornings recently. So it's a it's kind of top of mind. Absolutely. Well,
I'm glad that Kimberly, so from downtown Georgia, because obviously, the businesses see one aspect of our of our folks that we serve the chronically homeless that people see around town, and they see their faces, and they get to know them as they drive by certain corners and, and whatnot. Be so there's many aspects. I mean, there's there's folks that are service resistant. Those are folks that no matter what we try, no matter what we try to offer them for them. staying away from supportive services is just where they they are most comfortable. And, in fact, I met a gentleman yesterday came to our office and offer him some water, he was dehydrated, and said, Hey, do you want to? You know, do you want to see what services are available to? Would you like to see if we can do anything for you? And what came out of the conversation was basically no, he goes, I told me, I am uncomfortable living inside. And for me, living outside is my way of life. And I just this is this is where I'm comfortable. And, you know, that's that's hard. You know, for me, and I'm sure listeners that, you know, we have a place to go to we have a bed at night and we have filter like how would we not want that. But there is there's a there's a serious segment of our population. And there's a lot of it factors of why they are that way that won't engage. But sometimes through time, they are able to engage with us. And then there's the folks that either recently lost work, they have the ability to work, but for whatever reason, you know, they're they're in between jobs, and it's just there, there in that space, we have our navigation program, which really fits the bill for them, and they will get into a program to work with a case manager will work them to help find work, employment, I mean, usually they can get back on their feet with within a few months. And those those folks are really excited about because they don't have to spend a lot of time going through this system. And they they really benefit. And then there's a lot of folks that fall into gaps. And I just want to mention folks to fill in the gaps because this is a big part of what we try to handle in Longmont that we don't have all the resources for, for example, folks that you may see out about with with a pet, you can't access shelter services anywhere in Boulder County, not just Longmont. And actually I don't even think in Denver, they have a they have a new facility. So a lot of folks on the street and if you are a pet owner you know this like this is part of your family, you don't want to give up your innocence family to to get services. I mean, it's a it's a hard call for them, but a lot of folks would rather stay where they are, then receive services with with a pet. There is no emergency family sheltering anywhere in Boulder County. Believe it or not, there are some services that will help family for the for immediate for a few days with hotel vouchers, but there is no place for families actually to go. And couples as well, there's a gap in system, there were some couples won't will come and engage in services because they don't want to be apart. And the way our system currently works is that you have to go through an assessment and based on where your needs are. Based on your vulnerability and level, some couples actually can be split, some can go to Boulder some going to be assessed to here. And so that that has happened. So it's it's hard at the system does the best it can to accommodate but there's a lot of variables that really affect how we can help folks, like I said, the folks that can work they have the ability, the navigation program, which we have here in Longmont works exceptionally well. In fact, we've had over 60 successful exits, when and when I say successful exits, that's folks that we've either been able to reunite, re engage with someone or they've been successfully housed not since the beginning of the year. Last year, we we had 59 totals we've already exceeded last year successful exits total already, we're just halfway through the year. So the navigation program can be very successful for a part of our population that we serve. But you know, as I mentioned, there are a lot of other pieces to this. And unfortunately, some of these other pieces are the most visible parts that the public does see out along.
We're going to come back to that visible
segment. And Kimberly, just on this next question I'm going to ask you to speak specifically weigh in with exactly what's happening downtown. Before I get there. Let's talk about these other segments. We've got families that for whatever reason that Joe Joseph mentioned, may have lost a job or couldn't make a house payment, or a doctor's payment, or did make it in couldn't make their rent payments seniors, probably the most rapidly growing segment the victims of domestic violence.
Great, yes. So I think a couple of one of the emerging trends. And Tim, you just mentioned this would be seniors, some of our older adults, and particularly individuals who are on or households that are on fixed incomes. That is an emerging trend that we've seen in homelessness. Over the past few years where we have older adults in our community, they've lived entire life in our community, they have retired, they're on a fixed income, and they are now priced out of the housing market. And so that's something that's that's a relatively new trend. And particularly with older adults who might not have a support system, maybe their families no longer live in this area, or maybe they are alienated from their, from their extended family. These are individuals that are unsupported, who no longer can afford their housing. And we are working hard at Senior Services and with other providers in the community to really figure out how we can provide some kind of subsidy for ongoing housing. And that that is a that is a challenge. I think the other thing as it relates to families. So you know, not only might a family member encounter an unintended expense that they can't really handle. I think we are we are seeing here within the school district when Lewis Chavez was talking about some of the families that they are working with in schools is that we're talking about families where one or both parents are working two or three jobs each to try to cobble together enough resources and enough income to be able to afford housing in this really high housing market. And so those might be families that could be doubled up with other families, we might not, they might not be visible, we might not see them on the you know it outward in the community. These are individuals who are working, they're working very, very hard. And it's just a challenge to be able to have enough money to pay rent and to sustain their housing in this really a strong housing economy.
Just Just a tip, the iceberg in terms of the complexity in each of those segments, requires a not entirely different but a but a tailored response. Because what caused that situation, right? Senior individual or couple, or the the couple that doesn't want to be separated, what what puts them in that situation can be very different. And therefore the responses have to be responsive or reflective of what those needs are. The most visible segment is is the segment of chronic homelessness. And that's Kimberly, the that segment of the population that your members and in those who want want to frequent do frequent downtown, and I have to say, kudos to you and in what the authority has done in terms of a safe, vibrant, clean downtown, because it is fun these days, on a separate summer evening to be downtown and see the level of activity how many residents enjoy what's happening downtown. But this is a this is a real challenge. Talk about what LEDA is doing. And kind of the theory of action and who all is involved in, and what the timeframe is and talk about what people should expect to see or experience in a time for him and where you're going with that work.
Thank you so much. And I will say over the years, there's been different, we've worked with the Economic Development Partnership and their small business committee, and we've worked with leadership long lot. So it does go beyond downtown. But we certainly have done a lot of work around it for business owners. And years ago, our business owners were saying number one, we don't know what we can and can't do or what is acceptable or not acceptable. So we did a lot we work with the police. And we worked with organizations to say what are the rights of a business owner, what are the rights of a person, certainly someone can sit on a bench, they can sit on a bench, if they're just too hanging out, that's absolutely fine. And we want downtown or other places to be a place where people can can hang out and enjoy and spend time. But there are things where there's different excessive lettering people that are shouting curse words, people that are kind of intimidating people for money in that type of thing. So I think the business owners needed to learn what what what wasn't wasn't acceptable. About two years ago, we started a training that we would have businesses go through of how to how to experience or how to deal with people that are experiencing homelessness or transit behavior. And this usually went into those that are experiencing a lot of bad behaviors that I talked about before. So we would have hoped come in, we would have our center come in, we would have the community policing officers come in and went through about a two hour training. And again, we wanted to make sure everyone was treated with dignity and respect and that everyone would knew of the services. And that's the question that I get my was from our business owners. Where do I send people? How do I help people? What do I connect? years ago, I think the our center had a packet that you could buy that could get someone a meal could do some of that. So instead of maybe giving someone money, they would be able to give them a kit that could kind of take them where they need to go. We call hope often when we see someone who's been living in a certain area for a long time, and to see if they can have their outreach people come and talk to them, we do understand that not everyone is going to be accepting of services.
So last year, we started. So sorry, I don't have a radio voice.
You're doing fine.
Last year, we worked with the city on what we called ambassadors. So we had some security ambassadors that would walk on the Greenway, and that would walk downtown. It was one coordinated entry had first happened when we were trying to get people connected with services. They had all of the pamphlets, all the information to kind of interact, encourage people to go into the services. Some people did, some people didn't it certainly going to just depend on that individual and where their comfort level was. But I think it was great to make that personal connection, we got to know folks by name, I know that, then you could kind of see the behaviors, many of those folks, I would say we could see were having troubles with addiction or troubles with mental health. So we were able to share information to make sure that these individuals stayed safe, as well as those that were that were interacting with them. So we felt like it was a good trial to have people that were consistent that could see if someone had was struggling on the Greenway. And then we're struggling on downtown breeze ways that type of thing. So that was helpful for the information sharing piece of it. And we're hoping to do something like that, again, with some park rangers that are able to again, be that consistency, be able to connect people with services be able to observe behaviors, and as they are changing or escalate. If we have people that are consistently interacting with folks that that are experiencing homelessness or are living outside, I think it's very helpful to share that information, we go to what's called the first responders group. So it's a group of the police of our center of different social services, that are the ones that are first on the scene or first to help those experiencing homelessness, those Rangers will be at those meetings, and we'll have those connections, again, to make sure that people are treated with dignity and respect and that we're observing behaviors. And I can tell you from personal experience, we had a gentleman who was living in downtown, and you could see his was just getting worse and worse, was refusing help. Finally, it came to where it was a public health issue. He was dedicating urinating that type of thing, finally got him into services. And he had a brain tumor. And he was was able to get that treated, it was not a typical behavior that he would have had. And I think seeing the the slide and being able to talk about that really saved his life, he was able then to reconnect with his family. And it wasn't that he didn't want his services, it was that something was happening where he was just refusing them. And that's not normally what he would do. So again, having that consistency and being able to observe people and then help and see when and and we also said, we know that some people don't want services, but you never know what's going to happen the night before that makes them change their mind that says this is the last night I'm going to spend on the street. So if they've made a relationship with one of our folks, they might say, you know what, give me that information again, or can you take me there? Can you have someone help me? So I do think it's a good continuity to be able to have those frontline people.
So you mentioned the first responder group and who is comprised of a certain number of people. You didn't mention hope, but hope is part of that as well. You mentioned the hours in Oh, I'm sorry. I thought maybe you did. And I just didn't hear Yeah,
I thought I did.
And I think in addition, you know, some of our other city services that also work with and are places where folks who don't have stable housing might come. So certainly our our library staff members are part of the first response team. And, and I think what is, you know, what that team really illustrates is the power of when you bring lots of different groups together that have a shared vision, which is we want to make sure that people in Longmont find stable housing, and that we help them get stable housing so that we can then be more effective in helping them address the multitude of issues related to their story about how they became homeless and in the first place. So we sometimes differ on our approaches and how we should do things. But that common vision keeps us staying together and working hard together. So that we make sure that people have stable housing, and are not forced to live in scenarios and situations that aren't meant for human habitation.
Kimberly talk just a bit more just drill down a little further last year, people may have read about or observed or interacted with, quote unquote ambassadors a group that the city of employed, they wouldn't see ambassadors this year, they would see Rangers, what's the connection between Rangers who are hired to supervise our parks and enforce public land code standards and in require expectations in the public lands? Why would we see Rangers in downtown?
I think the first thing that I would like to say about the Ranger program is if you think about a park ranger, they're there to tell you about a tree or to give you information or to do something. So we do want these Rangers to be very supportive to be kind of the guides to the downtown experience in the Greenway. What we what we observed, though, is that the ambassador said that when folks were deciding to exhibit bad behaviors, and really did not care about the consequences, there was pretty much a disconnect there that they they knew that that it didn't matter that that Ambassador was there just to kind of say hi, but we didn't have any really teeth to enforce things. Again, Rangers will only be able to issue tickets and that type of thing. But they'll have radios and they'll have different things. And so we felt like for that security peace arranger would be more helpful. Also, again, because we see the same folks within the parks within downtown on the green ways, it was a nice connection that those Rangers would be able to go outside of the parks or deal in, in the parks deal in downtown. So again, there's that consistency, they have a little bit, they have a high will have a high level of training, we're also going to be doing training, we're getting them on board with hope with the our center with the police to really talk about the expectations of treatment of those with those experiencing homelessness, but also be interacting with the public at large, you know, here's a great place to park, here's where you can go eat, here's how you get down to the Greenway. If you're on the Greenway, here's how you can get into downtown. So again, that holistic approach and that information sharing the Rangers i think is it, as we're doing also a smoking restriction, they'll be able to enforce that smoking restriction, they'll have just a little bit more for the enforcement capacity. But again, their role will be to be friendly, to connect people to services to be a hand up, and to help folks so that enforcement is a last resort.
And now, those are the same individuals not just titled Rangers, but the people with names and experiences, who who are supervising or green ways in our parks. So to the degree that they're engaging with individuals downtown, and maybe the same individuals, as they look for places to rest would be interacting in those venues and, and be able to be of some assistance. Joseph?
Yeah, I live to 10 minutes. So Kimberly, you mentioned to really, one really important point on your, on your last conversation. One that you were talking about how you never know when connecting with someone may change their reality or perception that they they can actually accept services. Right and, and hopefully see this all the time. And it's a conversation that we we have all the time, especially with Karen, Karen and Caronia and I go back and forth on this regarding resources and services and accountability and what services should be implemented versus what's not. And one of the big issues that we we face is that we're based on a limitation of resources, that right now we have a navigation based program, which is based on just really an accountability based program. And along with there's some restrictions as far as what can be done outside of that. So you mentioned, you know, there used to be something that our center used to give food and little box, right, and there's a big humanity piece. And I'm sure folks listening, you know, when you see someone who's homeless initial reaction, you know, there's a caring moment is like, what can I do to help them what's the best way to help them. And, you know, money may not always be the best solution. Because there's so many factors involved that but what is happening is that a constant engagement from a human level can change. Someone's just reality from from 10, fanatic mates. It's amazing what we can do on a human level. You know, the Rangers, I had some, there's, there's some skeptics, and I'm one of them about the Ranger program part because of the ticketing. Because when you take it, someone who's homeless, that doesn't change anything. Now I understand the ability to be able to take it right for behavior, because you need to have some sort of enforcement, but the reality is, if there's, if there is, you know, you're giving us some of these homes a ticket, that that's not going to change a behavior, it's not going to necessarily, you know, they may come back the next day or an hour later, whatnot. And so where I'm going with this is that from a humanity perspective, right, our ambassadors, you know, any city of staff that that deals with homeless are our libraries become a day center. A lot of our folks hang out in libraries, especially on hot days, or it was very cold days. That's where they go, right. We know this and and, you know, we go to libraries twice a week, make sure we're engaging with folks in that's why there's such a need, what hope is putting out there for a facility that can act as a day center with wraparound services, because the reality is some folks, you know, I don't a lot of them don't want us to be on the street. But there's no other words nor the place to go. There's no where they're going to go to the restroom. Right? They go to the library. But after libraries closed, then yes, they're usually hanging out downtown businesses, right. So there, there's some, there are some gaps and issues that we can address from a human human level. And through some resources that hope is trying to put through the community. One of the things I want to talk about is a safe flight, which I can get to later on. They're just people with vehicles, and homelessness that are living in their vehicles. But I think it's really important to understand the human level can change, because we hear this all the time. Our folks that tell us, they start to believe that they can't, they start to believe that they are worthless and invisible. And you know what our society reinforces that for them. It's sad, but true. And all the time when I'm talking to someone, and I asked them how they're doing. And they'll be point blank that they're there. They're doing horrible. And for them, they don't feel like there's hope, right? And in when they start telling them like, Well, you know, what's happened, what's happened this week, I've been yelled at, I've been cursed, that people will drive by, say, get a job and, and they'll make assumptions on how they look and who they are, right. And so what happens when that gets reinforced in someone's head, and we all know this, because we all live on an affirmation level as human beings, we start to believe that we start to believe that we are worthless, and that's no different when you're struggling, you're struggling to survive. And that mentality is and reinforced by the public by potentially, police, you know, having tickets, and there's nowhere else to go. Well, you know what, it reinforces that behavior. But there are things we can do to help that. And I challenged listeners that, you know, we see someone's almost just even smiling and saying hello can make a difference in someone's day.
If I can add on to last year, when we had the ambassadors, one of my favorite stories was there was a young woman named Nikki experiencing homelessness who lived in downtown all the time. And he said, Good morning, Nikki, and she stopped and she's like, you know my name? He said, Nikki, we talk everyday. Yeah, I know your name. And so I think pretty soon, we did see those that continued to stay downtown, did tidy up a little more, you know, did kind of follow those kind of standards of behavior, because they knew they had a relationship, they started to know she was never ready to enter services. But that whole, I think you're right, like she felt more appreciated, and then kind of looked at him more as a friend as an ally, because they did have those conversations each day. So that connection was an important part of that program, and will be an important part of the Ranger program as well. And I do understand what you're saying about and, and again, the ticketing is a last resort. You know, there's many, many, many, many, many steps before you would get to that ticketing It is about the voluntary compliance, making sure that people understand the rules and expectations within the public spaces.
Two observations, we're going to I prepared way more questions, we have time for this conversation. Maybe we'll do a sequel. But just on this particular topic,
I get what Joseph is saying about, you know, where a ticket is meaningful. But the enforcement here isn't just with the homeless population? Oh, no, absolutely. There are a number of people downtown whose behavior needs to be checked for whom a ticket might very well matter, right. So it's a much broader population than just the homeless population. That's the important. The other thing I think it's important for people to understand is that you have a, this is not an experiment. You're testing a theory. So to that degree, it's maybe experimental, but you don't have all the controls, you might have an experiment because it's way more complex. But you do have an oversight group, you do have a timeline, you are going to collect data. And you are going to produce a report to share what you've learned, what does that timeline look like? And who all is involved in the oversight.
We're hoping that that timeline will will be sometime in November, the Rangers are still the process took a little bit longer, we're starting a little bit later than we had wanted to. So we're getting them on board and trained up. So they'll probably start sometime in August. So it's really only going to give us a month or two of data. So we're going to be they'll have an app, and they'll be able to tell us where they were, who they experienced what kind of things they did, where they got voluntary and compliance, where it had to go to a ticket where they had to call the police in. So we'll have that entire app, we will be meeting with that group that we talked about before the first responders talking to them. Each month, the Rangers will be starting to go to those meetings each month to talk about number one, what they're seeing, and then to talk from the organizations in the city staff about what they're hearing? Are people feeling like it is beneficial? Are people feeling like their rights are being violated for any reason? And is that true? Or isn't that true? How is that connection with the police. So we'll really be looking at all of that. The one thing that we have to manage in downtown, which is it's more hard to manage his perception. And so sometimes people's perception is not true to the reality. And so we try to do education, we try to make sure that people know what the rights are of individuals, what the rights are of themselves and make sure that that they do know. And often people say, Why is no one helping? Or why, you know, why are we just ignoring this problem? I'm in so many meetings, and it's certainly not that people are ignoring the problem. And there's business owners have all kinds of different abilities some. And so to city staff, you know, it's so interesting, I work with Karen, and we're on these committees and their city staff that they're one step further is 50 steps further than another person, you know, and so it's really learning and in part of our training is learning about your own response. What are you thinking right now? And how is that causing you to act. And so it's such a complex issue, everything from how you're feeling to the perception to the reality. So we'll try to gauge as much as we can, as well as just kind of talk to people and hear the stories and hear how they think things are going.
So I had other questions about the, you know, strategies and how you know, what's the what's the, what's the bundle of strategies that ultimately make the big difference, we're going to have to bypass those because we're coming up on a time, I do want to close though with a asking each of you, if you have worst fears about where we are and where we're headed, I'd like to know what those are. And if you have best hopes as well, because at the end of the day, what we'd like to do is make certain as we come together as a community that we're working to achieve our best hopes not just to avoid our worst fears. So if you have, who would like to start cheering, and then and then we'll just wrap up from there.
Well, I have a best hope.
I am and I mentioned this earlier, I am encouraged by the work that we are doing as a as a community, how we are collaborating, and how we are working together toward that shared vision around making sure that everyone in our community is deeply housed and has the opportunity to be their best selves. And we have seen some incredible progress, I think, you know, by having a now a coordinated entry, now an integrated system for working with individuals, particularly adults who are experiencing homelessness, and doing that throughout the county, we we have optimized resources, we have coordinated, you know, how we link people to resources. And, and that has taken us a long way that has really helped us to be more effective as an entire community and an entire region for helping individuals who are experiencing homelessness get back into to housing, I think the other thing is that where where individuals kind of get stuck is that the the whole premise around homeless solutions for Boulder County is getting folks into housing more quickly. And with our housing market right now, what we are experiences is a shortage of housing that would be that's suitable for individuals who have been living on the street and need more supportive housing and need more transitional housing. And, and that that number that we need to accomplish, say the number of permanent supportive housing units that we need to bring online, it's doable, it is really doable. As long as we stay the course, we still work together, and we move forward and can resolve our differences of opinion about what's the what's the best approach, my worst fear is that we don't hang together as a as a community that we decide that the work is too hard the decide that we do need a solution faster than what is really feasible when we are, you know, talking about homelessness, and really helping people to regain stability, and to work on the issues that they that led them to be homeless. So I think there's great hope and that what we have in place, and I my fear is that we we give up, we don't stay the course. And we don't remain committed to resources because it will require resources to to, to create a whole continuum of housing that will make it possible for people who are struggling with housing instability now in our community to have a stable option.
To plan that I think my worst fear is that we're not going we're going to under resource, the what we need to help people with mental health and a diction. And again, when I see where we've had the most trouble with maybe chronic homelessness, it's those that are I think severely struggling with those issues. So I feel like housing is an important piece. Absolutely. But I feel like those things that will help those other services need to be more robust. And I know that there are a number of programs. But that's that that's what I think we could work on. You know, my best hope is certainly that we are getting people into homes that we are getting the services that we need, and that we are becoming a compassionate community that we are learning how to assist people and we know where to turn if it gets beyond our comfort level that we are telling people then here's who you call, and here's who can can help her make sure that people are there to be supportive and to make sure that people are connected to where they are. I think what is hopeful is that we see people that are doing all kinds of interesting things around housing. And I just want to make one again, example of something that happened downtown, the dickens Manor if anyone is aware of where that is on the corner of Kaufman and third was one of our absolute worst properties for years more calls of services there than anywhere else within downtown. It has a new owner named page Pulver and she has really fixed it up, cleaned it up, kept it at affordable place. It's a boarding home with 43 units, but has now made it to be a safe place where it was riddled with crime. No longer the police have said an amazing transformation. They're not getting the calls. But it's an interesting new way to live. And we're seeing folks that have been able to step in there. So there's there's great things, and I hope to see more innovative solutions like that, that are going to be happening around our community.
If I could add to that I think it illustrates what one person Yeah, so this is one owner, what one community member can do to make a huge difference.
With a good way to tee it up for Joseph, Executive Director of hope to finish it up with if you have worst fears what they are, but also your best hopes.
Yeah, no, I love the word hope flying around here. That's great. I wouldn't call it fear, as I call it, I'll call this concerns is that what we see in our community and this has been happening for a long time not just here in Longmont is that there's a there's a sense of community, whenever there's a provision of homeless services, it's if you build it, they will come mentality. And unfortunately, as we know, folks are already here, we have to take care of our own. And there's this fear that we were going to attract people from all over if we have a facility that actually helps people. And the reality is, is no that's not the case. And data can actually show that it's it's that folks who are homeless, don't look on a map or go on Google and say where's the best homeless place in the country where I can go and get services know, they go where they're, where they know where they're comfortable, where they potentially family, where their resources where they know they can go. And and I just want to address that from a community level that we shouldn't be afraid to put resources towards this. Because I mean, we're obviously having this important discussion on why this issue exists, it will continue to exist, but there are tangible steps we can do. And from the investment from a community government, we had all it takes us all coming together into filling those gaps. And also, I just want to address the word shelter really quickly. Because there's a big misconception whenever says when when someone says the word shelter, that I hear this all the time in the community, everyone's like what oh, I don't want I don't want have something where does people come and there's there's no accountability in this. People just come in, they get their services, and they leave. And that's all that happens. We're not talking about that I want to change the word shelter. And when we hear that I want, I want to change this conversation that this is a place where it's a temporary pastor, it's a place where people get back on their feet, they get into housing, they get the resources they need, and they move on to a better part of their life. And that's really what hope is trying to create here in Longmont with a permanent facility is that when you hear the word shelter, don't be afraid of that. Let's embrace it because that means so much more than what it may used to have been in the 90s or 2000s. When you know there's rescue missions, and they served an important purpose at the time, but we've learned from from what's happened is that just having a open space for folks may not be the best thing. Let's provide wraparound services, let's find out what they need, we can get them back on their feet. So my concerns and fears are that the public, the public may have a misconception on what is actually happening based on fear. And my hope is simply what I've talked about its humanity. I think the more we can engage and folks that don't have, you know, even the simplest things in life, just understanding how blessed we are as a society that just saying hello, a simple Hello can literally change someone's day, maybe even their life. That's my hope we can come together for solutions. And really, that's the biggest thing for me is let's put a smile on someone's face today.
Well, no one else is going to do that for us. Right? We're only going to do it for ourselves. There's no champion right in and solve this problem for long one. So we appreciate the three of you playing the roles that you play, to help the community realize its best hopes to reduce housing insecurity and reduce homelessness in Long Island. Thank you. And that is at least part of the backstory on this issue.