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Boulder Shelter for the Homeless is expanding its criteria for opening the shelter all day in critical weather conditions and will stay open later daily beginning Dec. 1, following pushback from some Boulder City Council members and community members.

The shelter will remain open all day when there is a high temperature of 20 degrees or an expected 6 inches or more of snow, according to Boulder Housing and Human Services Director Kurt Firnhaber. The threshold previously had been 10 degrees and 10 inches.

Further, the shelter will stay open until 11:30 a.m. beginning Dec. 1.

In order to make these changes, the shelter developed protocols for daily cleaning and disinfection to protect staff and clients during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to information sent by Firnhaber in a public email to the Boulder City Council.

Boulder has struggled to provide adequate day services for those experiencing homelessness, and the problem has been exacerbated by COVID-19. In an effort to offer more options, Firnhaber said Housing and Human Services first went to various members of Boulder’s faith community. However, that didn’t yield many results.

Scott Medina, director of community relations with Boulder’s Bridge House, noted relying on places of worship can be problematic, since those facilities may not be equipped to support those experiencing homelessness, and it requires people to keep track of all the different places providing services. Bridge House used to operate the severe weather shelter program but now focuses on a number of other programs, including the transitional housing and employment program Ready to Work.

Still, the shelter’s steps to stay open longer and the new cold weather requirements are a step in the right direction in terms of providing emergency services, Medina said. But the work doesn’t stop there.

“The day shelter aspect is incredibly important but also having programmatic services available during the day is equally important,” Medina said.

Other changes

Housing and Human Services created a severe weather shelter dashboard, which provides information about the number of people who shelter each night and notes when folks are turned away.

The temporary severe weather shelter, at 4869 Broadway, is triggered on nights when there is a National Weather Service warning or watch for winter weather, a prediction of temperatures below 32 degrees, or a prediction of temperatures below 38 degrees with a likelihood of precipitation.

Additionally, the county on Nov. 23 is opening a physical location at 909 Arapahoe Ave. in downtown Boulder for its Coordinated Entry system, which is a screening process that all single adults experiencing homelessness must go through to receive services from Boulder County or the cities of Boulder or Longmont.

Instead of solely operating by phone, people now can stop in to sign up with Coordinated Entry. The screening is required for those looking for year-round or severe weather shelter at the Boulder Shelter for the Homeless. Grace nights initially are afforded, but the shelter eventually will turn away people who refuse to go through the process.