Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the shelter’s name.
Boulder Shelter for the Homeless Chief Executive Officer Greg Harms will step down by the end of this year after almost two decades on the job, the shelter announced this week.
“It was time,” Harms said in an interview Friday. “I’ve been doing this job for 19 years and it’s pretty much a 24/7, 365-days-a-year kind of job, and it’s time to hand that over to someone else.”
Under Harms’ tenure, the shelter moved into its current shelter facility at 4869 N. Broadway in 2003, built permanent supportive housing for chronically homeless people at 1175 Lee Hill Drive in 2014 and shifted its focus toward permanent housing rather than emergency shelter alone. His resignation was first reported by the Boulder Beat.
“It’s great work — it’s very difficult, but it’s great work,” Harms said. “I’m inspired by our clients, I’m inspired by my colleagues, by our staff and volunteers. It’s a special place and I will miss that.”
The 1175 Lee Hill development was a point of controversy in the Boulder community, and Harms said that looking back, he wishes he and the shelter could have done a better job engaging in the public discourse.
Boulder County Director of Community Services Robin Bohannan has known Harms for at least 25 years through the Boulder County AIDS Project, the Boulder Shelter for the Homeless and other nonprofit initiatives.
“That’s legacy work, and it demonstrates a deep commitment to public service,” Bohannan said.
Bohannan described Harms as always being the smartest person in the room, but keeping it to himself.
“He did not lead or manage from a place of ego,” she said. “He really led with understanding the sweet spot of working toward a common good.”
Bohannan also cited his work on ballot initiatives such as the human services safety net tax, which voters overwhelmingly approved an extension of in 2014.
“I think that was largely due to Greg’s skill at telling the story and communicating the need,” Bohannan said.
Boulder Housing and Human Services Director Kurt Firnhaber described Harms as a steady person.
“I think it takes a pretty unique individual to be able to work every day for 20 years in this kind of environment doing this kind of work,” Firnhaber said. “It becomes hard on your soul sometimes as you’re trying to serve people who are most vulnerable in our community under what is at times a certainly contentious community issue. He’s had the tenacity to work through that and continue to serve the community in that way.”
Harms’ departure marks a “key transition” for the community, Firnhaber said, particularly given the impact of Harms’ work.
“We want to keep the constructive work going in the right direction, and getting the right leaders in place to continue that work is really important,” he said.
The shelter will conduct a national search for Harms’ replacement and will hire an interim CEO, according to a news release.
Harms said he doesn’t know what he’s doing next other than taking some time off.
“I probably will be engaged with the community in some way, I just don’t know if that’s going to be on a volunteer basis or another job,” he said. “I’m going to take a little time to ponder what’s next.”
Harms is also an avid cyclist, and that will be his first order of business when he’s finished at the shelter.
“If the weather is decent, I’ll probably go for a bike ride,” he said.