(The Center Square) – Two Boulder City Council members don’t want to expand the $2.2 million program the city currently has to help dismantle the homeless encampments overflowing in several areas of the city and house people experiencing homelessness.
One of the council members instead wants to take some of that money and give out 7,000 $10 gift cards as incentives to the homeless to remove their own trash.
The current program for The Safe and Managed Public Spaces (SAMPS) began in 2021 as a pilot program to address the overflow of homeless encampments in public spaces throughout the city. The program offers in-source campsite cleanup as well as resources for unhoused campers.
Because of the rise in unsanctioned camping, some council members want to divert the money across several incentive-based programs.
During the Sept. 14 budget presentation, Council member Nicole Speer suggested homelessness will only get worse without focusing on prevention. The new 2024 budget proposed an $820,000 addition for encampment removal. Speer promoted a plan where for $70,000, the city could offer 7,000 $10 gift cards next year to people experiencing homelessness to pick up their own trash.
According to city documents, over 195,000 tons of trash and debris have been collected, 81,000 needles and over 500 pounds were collected from May through Dec. 2022 at one kiosk, and 836 campsites have been taken down and completed the cleanup.
There are currently minimal consequences for camping in public spaces, mainly ticketing those doing the camping, which has proved ineffective, according to documents, and more campers refusing to comply with current cleanup procedures over the last few months.
The city offers a 72-hour notice for those participating in unsanctioned camping and prioritizes the proximity of campsites near schools. The city has also received several requests to remove the 72-hour notice and create school safety zones to ensure quicker cleanup.
The city of Boulder says that estimating how many homeless it has is difficult. It estimates there are 450 homeless people in the city, and a 2020 survey counted 689 homeless individuals in Boulder County.
Council members Speer and Folkerts didn’t respond to an email from The Center Square seeking comment.