Why 1440 Pine Street Project is Bad for the Homeless – Judy Nogg

I am opposed to the current proposal for 1440 Pine Street.

I don’t live nearby. Indeed, I’d rather devote my attention to my own neighborhood issues, but I am so concerned about the dangers to young adults that I must present my concerns.

Of course, most people want options for homeless young adults. I believe that the well-intended people who support this project have not yet considered the ramifications of this particular plan.

Most of my career has been in human services, including a nonprofit for foster parents. Moreover, I was a foster parent to teenagers for thirteen years and, for a few years, had a group home in Boulder for five teen age foster children n at a time. I am passionate about the welfare of young adults.

Gardner Capital seeks federal funds. These funds carry restrictions, including dictates that residents can’t “age out” and that services can’t be mandated.

Unless you have lived with other people’s older kids, you have no idea how difficult it can be – even in a homey environment. You may be smiling now because, after all, it may be challenging enough to live with your own young adult children. Tossing so many traumatized young adults together in forty apartments – that will quickly lead to 80+ residents – is a terrible idea.

I am an admirer of Attention Homes. Their former house-parents can attest to how hard it is to have a small group of struggling young adults living together, let alone a big apartment full of unsupervised young adults.

Those of us who have lived with and cared about these young adults know how great they are. It is also high drama all the time. Hospitals. Police. Therapists. Courts. One time, I broke up a fight between two guys – one of whom was wielding an axe, the other a baseball bat. Once, I had to stop a young woman from killing herself. So I am not unaware of the speed with which issues can escalate.

Some of the young adults can’t live at home because it isn’t safe or because their family structure disintegrated. Some have serious mental health issues that require extensive community support. Some have been involved in criminal behavior and are still interested in perpetuating that behavior. Some perpetrators; some victims.

Everyone traumatized in one way or another. Not to mention social insecurities and raging hormones at this age. To mix all these kids together is a scenario for a horror show.

Take a moment to remember what you were like at 18 or 19. Or what your kids were like. Now, you may say, these kids are already adults. After all, a person can enter the military at age 18. Exactly. And those kids who entered the military and faced trauma, well, with all the PTSD, how has that turned out?

Here are my key concerns: 1) It is way too dense; 2) The location near Pearl Street is an invitation to trouble; 3) Money is the driver; 3) Residency is not time-limited; 4) services are not required; and 5) residents might not be local.

And, yet, it would be easy for this to be a win/win/win situation. For the neighbors, for the city and, most importantly, to the local young adults who need safe housing.

Here is an alternative: Build three six-bedroom houses with money that is locally raised. Provide all services to local young adults in a step manner. The first house has restrictions. A resident graduates to the next house with fewer regulations and then onto the third house that is prep for independent living. All houses have house parents and day/weekend staff. This is more attuned to the tradition of Attention Homes, anyway. Get rid of the Federal monies and restrictions.

If the Church requires underground parking – fine.

Here is my fear: Should you develop the current project, every person who advocated for it will regret the decision. Especially when no one can claim that they weren’t warned. I believe that these young adults will be at constant risk with terrible unintended consequences. Assault. Theft. Drug overdoses. Rape. Suicide. I’m not being overly dramatic. You might as well put a police-substation right there. As well as a designated parking space for an ambulance.

Bottom line: These young adults have already had a terrible time. Please don’t take them from the fire only to throw them into the frying plan. There are better options for 1440 Pine and for these young adults.

Judy Nogg, Boulder

This article has been submitted to the Daily Camera as a Guest Opinion, but they’ve refused to publish it.