Daily Camera (Boulder)

Homelessne­ss strategy tops Council debate

Member pay, cannabis tax also discussed

- By Amber Carlson acarlson@prairiemou­ntainmedia.com

At the second day of its annual retreat on Friday, the Boulder City Council’s discussion touched on a range of issues, such as the role and scope of study sessions, the equity implicatio­ns of councilmem­ber pay, and a possible cannabis tax to support people with mental health conditions and drug addiction.

But the city’s strategy to address homelessne­ss was the topic that sparked the most discussion — and debate — among councilmem­bers.

The discussion came a day after a district court ruling regarding Boulder’s camping ban.

During the retreat, Councilmem­ber Rachel Friend expressed concern about Boulder “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result” with regard to its unhoused population.

“I think that we are not getting the results that we want for our community,” Friend said at the retreat.

“Community members who are most impacted — I don’t think their situation has gotten better in (my time on the council).”

Several councilmem­bers, including Mayor Aaron Brockett and Friend, advocated for hiring an outside consultant to advise the city on current best practices and changes to its existing homeless strategy, which has been in place since 2017.

Councilmem­ber Nicole Speer raised skepticism about this plan, saying there is already expertise within the community. “What would an outside person bring that we don’t already have here?” she asked.

Speer also brought up other concerns, such as the need to focus on what aspect of homelessne­ss the city is trying to address, to implement evidence-based practices, and to consider how the city could help prevent people from entering into homelessne­ss in the first place.

In response, Councilmem­ber Tara Winer said she liked the idea of hiring an impartial consultant because the issue of homelessne­ss has become highly politicize­d.

“It makes me more comfortabl­e to have someone who isn’t on any ‘side’ come and look at everything in a practical way,” Winer said at the meeting.

Other councilmem­bers, such as Junie Joseph, agreed with Winer’s statement.

Friend added that hiring a consultant who is seen as “neutral and objective” could help the Council achieve “community buy-in.”

Councilmem­bers appeared

last year.

Harris did not publicly lay out how the administra­tion plans to respond if a ruling that halts the sale of the drug nationwide comes down on Friday.

Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, meanwhile, was in California on Friday to meet leaders from Planned Parenthood to talk about access to the abortion drugs.

Dr. Kristyn Brandi said she told the vice president Friday that the ruling could trigger widespread confusion over the accessibil­ity of medicated abortion in the U.S. Brandi, who is chair of the Physicians for Reproducti­ve Health, said she already fields calls at her New Jersey clinic from women asking if medicated abortion is legal in the state.

“It’s a really important thing to communicat­e with people: medication abortion

of the encampment­s by the creek.

“Visitors and residents don’t feel safe, and the situation has become a big challenge, affecting one of our community’s key assets,” she wrote in an email. “The city of Boulder reports they are seeing an impact of the work the Save and Managed Public Places cleanup efforts are having, and the city is currently hiring additional operationa­l staff which will allow them to broaden their geographic reach and increase the frequency of cleanups.”

Boulder residents wrapped up the day at the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce where they heard from Cathy Alderman, chief communicat­ions and public policy officer with Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, and to come to a consensus that homelessne­ss is an issue they want to continue to discuss regularly throughout this year. Still, for some members of the Council, the discussion was lacking the viewpoints of people who have experience­d homelessne­ss.

“This conversati­on has

is not

Brandi said.

She added that Harris expressed support for immediatel­y challengin­g the ruling if it shuts down access to mifepristo­ne.

Clinics and telehealth providers have been preparing for a ruling that shuts down access to mifepristo­ne, ordering more doses of misoprosto­l so they can offer medication abortions with just that one drug. They will have to change the way they counsel patients, telling them that misoprosto­l-only abortions are slightly less effective and sometimes more painful than abortions done with both drugs.

Abortions using both drugs “can be as effective as 98% or more,” while misoprosto­l-only abortions are up to about 95% effective, Melissa Grant, chief operating officer of the Carafem abortion clinic, told The Associated Press.



Zac Schaffner, a supportive housing services manager with the Colorado Department of Local Affairs.

Schaffner spoke about the success Colorado program Built For Zero is having to support the state’s unhoused population through investing in housing.

“Moving to this coordinate­d system, we can assess individual­s, find out their level of acuity and quickly match them with the right resources known as the coordinate­d entry system,” he said. “It doesn’t always work that way, but that’s what we’re striving for.”

Alderman said to really address homelessne­ss, funding for street outreach is needed.

“We know we have to get more mental health providers on the streets working with people,” she said. left me kind of sad,” Speer said in her closing remarks at the retreat. “We’ve been talking ‘about,’ but not really ‘with.’ … Until we’re having conversati­ons with (people who have experience­d homelessne­ss), we’re really missing some of the best and most effective solutions.”

Mifepristo­ne dilates the cervix and blocks the action of the hormone progestero­ne, which enables a pregnancy to continue.

Misoprosto­l causes contractio­ns that empty the uterus. Typically, mifepristo­ne is taken by mouth first, followed by misoprosto­l a day or two later.

Studies show medication abortions are safe and effective, though with a slightly lower success rate than ones done by procedure in a clinic.

With the Texas decision pending, a dozen Democratic-controlled states filed their own lawsuit in federal court against the FDA on Thursday in Washington.

The lawsuit seeks to make it easier for woman to access the drug and alleges that several FDA requiremen­ts for prescribin­g and dispensing it are “burdensome, harmful and unnecessar­y.”

“Those are the most effective people to build that relationsh­ip and get folks connected with the services we need.”

While mental health treatment is crucial and funding for it is lacking, that’s not the full solution to homelessne­ss, Alderman reminded everyone.

“It’s housing and housing services,” she said.

John Tayer, president and CEO of the Boulder Chamber of Commerce, said the day was informativ­e and gave residents a first look at what others are doing to aid the unhoused population in their communitie­s.

“To see these homeless service programs in action helps to dispel concerns, while providing a clear picture of what mix of strategies are critical to success,” he said.

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