No room for drunks

A familiar story in Boulder. Clearly there needs to be a safe place for everyone, but I wouldn’t pile on the dry shelters. Part of maintaining a safe place may mean excluding some people. The community just needs to create alternative spaces for those people or, where resources already exist, improve coordination to be sure that they get to the right place.

The death of three homeless men on the icy streets of Boulder last winter – including two who apparently had been barred from the county homeless shelter for drinking – has prompted an urgent effort to avoid a similar tragedy next winter.

Activists for the homeless in Boulder County have also been critical of the shelter’s policy of excluding people who are drunk.

But Boulder is not alone. Nearly every shelter in the Denver area, citing the safety of other residents, bans intoxicated people.

Policies toward alcoholics vary among area shelters, but only the Denver Rescue Mission will take in people who are obviously drunk. Others, known as “damp” shelters, will allow people who have had a few drinks to stay.

Many, though, won’t allow anyone inside who shows signs of drinking.

“Our shelter is sober,” said Neal Hogan of the Salvation Army, which runs the 300-bed Crossroads shelter for single men. Hogan said many of his clients are struggling with addictions and didn’t need to be exposed to drunkenness.