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Boulder reverses residency requirement for the homeless, in same day ACLU protests policy

Current policy says unhoused people in Boulder must live there for at least six months before staying in a shelter during the warmer months.

BOULDER, Colo. — Boulder is a place people love to live, but the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado (ACLU) doesn't believe everyone is welcome there. 

"Boulder is just so proud of being recognized as you know the number one place to call home in America, and I want them to recognize that their unhoused residents have every right to call Boulder home too," said Annie Kurtz, attorney and equal justice works fellow at ACLU Colorado. 

Kurtz said new unhoused neighbors don't have that right because Boulder requires people to have been there for six months before they can access a shelter during the warmer months. 

According to Boulder's Director of Housing and Human Services, Kurt Firnhaber, the policy was put in place to "manage the resources that we have." 

Kurtz added if someone tries to access one before that six months, they are blocked from a shelter referral and other services for two years. 

"And they can't lawfully stay outside because of the camping ban, so there is just no lawful way to resettle in Boulder as an unhoused person under the current structure," she said. 

A letter from ACLU Colorado sent Thursday demands Boulder change their policy, calling it unconstitutional. 

"It's a policy that penalizes people for trying to get into the shelter," said Kurtz. 

Firnhaber said the policy is legal, but it's ending anyway on Aug. 9, something ACLU Colorado had not been made aware of prior to our interview with Boulder. 

"What we've realized is that we actually do have capacity for additional individuals to stay there," said Firnhaber. "We very rarely have met the capacity of the shelter." 

Firnhaber said Homeless Solutions for Boulder County decided privately to reverse the residency requirement back in June, and are only publicly saying it now because of the ACLU letter. 

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"So what it will look like going forward is that anyone will have access to the shelter and the shelter services for up to 90 days," he said. 

When asked if Firnhaber is worried reversing this policy will encourage people experiencing homelessness to move to Boulder, he said, "Yeah, that is a concern," because of the limited capacity of shelter space. 

The city has 140 shelter beds. 

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