When managing the day-to-day operations of a city, it can be easy to miss the big picture of how the puzzle pieces of various programs and initiatives fit together. Thanks to three significant grants the City of Boulder and its partners have received from the Department of Justice, the city will now be able to improve cross-departmental and multi-jurisdictional initiatives related to the complex issues of homelessness and behavioral health. These grants, announced last month, will allow the city to improve and expand cross-departmental coordination, and collaboration.

The first grant of $500,000 will help the Boulder Police Department (BPD) create a coordinated response to reduce harms relating to unsanctioned camping and people experiencing homelessness. The half-million-dollar expenditure will fund a project that has three phases: 1) inventory and collect data, 2) integrate data citywide and analyze sample unsanctioned camps, and 3) create customized responses for these unsanctioned camps.

“The overall goal will be to create a system to collect, share, and analyze data across all relevant city departments to get a more complete understanding of the citywide response to the issue of homelessness. This information will help us develop more effective and holistic responses,” said Police Chief Maris Herold. “Our city is innovative and forward-thinking, and this grant shows the level of confidence national leaders have in Boulder to further solutions to the complex issues of homelessness being faced across our country.”

The second grant of $150,000 will enhance the Crisis Intervention Response Team (CIRT), a joint program between BPD and the Housing and Human Services Department. Launched in February 2021, CIRT is a co-response team of licensed behavioral health clinicians and BPD officers who respond to calls involving a behavioral health crisis to help de-escalate situations and connect those in need to available services.

“This grant will increase the number of patrol officers who have crisis intervention training, increase the amount of time officers ride with CIRT clinicians, and provide a formal evaluation of CIRT,” said Human Services Policy Manager Wendy Schwartz, who oversees the program. “The stresses of the past few years are taking a toll on our community, and this grant will build on the successes we’ve already had by expanding alternative responses to those experiencing a behavioral health issue.”

About one-third of the time an officer and CIRT clinician respond to a call, it involves a person experiencing homelessness or who is at risk of losing housing. Expanding the training and capacity of the CIRT program will increase the impacts and outcomes for all members of our community who are experiencing behavior health challenges.

The third grant is a three-year, $900,000 award from the Bureau of Justice Assistance to the Boulder County Community Services Department. While awarded to the county, the city is one of many partners on the Homeless Solutions for Boulder County (HSBC) team that supported this proposal through program development and need identification.

This funding will help people experiencing homelessness reduce incidences of crime and recidivism through a program called “Project Recovery.” This program will specifically address the interface between addictions and homelessness and include treatment and recovery services, recovery housing, peer recovery support, pre- and post-booking treatment alternatives to incarceration.

The city is excited to work closely with the county to identify opportunities to help implement Project Recovery, including locating and funding the acquisition of a home for rehabilitation.

“This initiative is a great example of the collaboration we have with the County and Longmont through Homeless Solutions for Boulder County, which brings together resources and expertise to address regional challenges. As substance abuse is a significant barrier for individuals to exit homelessness, this program will help fill a key area of need for the community” said Kurt Firnhaber, director of Housing and Human Services.

These grants will give the city important resources to address these regional societal issues in a more informed, strategic and collaborative way, with a goal of improving the quality of life for everyone in the Boulder community.