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FY2021 SPI: City of Boulder, CO

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Competitive Discretionary
Awardee County
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $500,000)

The chronically unsheltered homeless, while not the most prevalent of individuals existing on the homeless continuum, tend to be the “face” of persons experiencing homelessness particularly in urban settings (Lee & Farrell, 2005). While homelessness is not a crime, it has increasingly become a public safety issue as business owners, tourists, commuters, and neighborhood residents look to the police to manage the homeless population.

Responses to people experiencing homelessness must be tailored to the local context. Fragmented data sources as well as a lack of coordination across agencies hinder effective responses. The city of Boulder and its residents recognize that encampments create both community and open space harms. Moreover, a citywide approach is costly. Calls for service in Boulder regarding homeless-related concerns are prevalent. In 2020, Boulder Police Department (BPD) officers responded to over 6500 calls for service involving homeless-related issues. Outside of the police department several other city departments including Public Utilities, Parks & Rec, Housing and Human Services and Open Space are all spending resources managing the harms as well.

Much of the challenge that the BPD and City of Boulder face is the lack of a coordinated effort to collect accurate data on encampments and the unhoused population. This deficit makes it difficult to serve the community by reducing the harms and assist the unhoused population in targeting the necessary services. Similar to cities around the U.S., data collection is often siloed, data sharing is not systematic, and analysis and response are limited to each department’s resources and priorities.

The City of Boulder (Colorado) Police Department proposes a three-phase project to create a coordinated response to reduce the harms relating to encampments and people experiencing homelessness. The three overlapping phases will focus on departmental coordination through a designated coordinator position, integrated data and analysis, and strategic responses informed by Phases 1 and 2. The Project Coordinator will serve as the liaison to each of the departments, partner with the City’s Innovations and Technology Department to create a centralized way to collect and manage data, and work with the BPD crime analyst, strategic advisor, project advisory board and research partner to implement the project. The overall goal will be to create a data system to collect, share, and analyze data across all relevant city departments in order to get a more complete understanding of the problems resulting in more effective responses.

Date Created: December 16, 2021