Residents in the mountain communities of western Boulder County are among the most under-served population in the Boulder-Broomfield region. Many people are surprised to discover the struggles that mountain communities face: you might think their biggest problems are infrastructure and electricity issues, but did you know that Nederland and the surrounding areas also have major housing and human services issues?
The Peak to Peak Housing and Human Services Task Force meets monthly to discuss problems that are affecting the mountain communities. The collaborative group was formed by Foothills United Way and other mountain community leaders in order to bring together these leaders, Boulder County government, and local nonprofit agencies.
The past couple of months the Task Force has focused on the fact that many homeless people from the Boulder area make their way up to Nederland to camp in the forests. This is becoming a major problem in many aspects. There are health, trash, safety, and fire concerns with the homeless living in the mountains. People setting up makeshift fire pits in non-designated campsites are a concern for fire safety. The homeless also do not have access to trash receptacles and as a result, trash is littered throughout the forest. Health concerns are also prevalent because people are not getting the care they need because they cannot afford it. Safety is an issue as there is a great deal of crime happening between homeless people.
Transportation is another huge concern for the Peak to Peak Housing and Human Services Task Force. Homeless individuals or families at or below the poverty level do not always have access to transportation. This makes getting to school, work, the doctor, or even the grocery store nearly impossible. Gilpin County has a transportation system in place that allows people to schedule a ride 48 hours in advance to get wherever they need to go. This is a service that the Task Force is closely looking at. Originally intended for medical visits, “Gilpin Connect” is now used for a wide variety of reasons and can take passengers as far as I-25 for just $3. This could be a transportation solution for Nederland. All Nederland has now is the “Climb”, which was funded by Foothills United Way and created with a collaboration of partners. The Climb is now a member of the Via Mobility Services. But the bus is not a viable transportation source because it only runs once a week.
The Task Force is committed to improving the community and is willing to do just about anything to make sure those who are struggling get the resources they need to help them achieve their highest potential. In August, a member of the Peak to Peak Housing and Human Services Task Force revealed that he had found a family with a four day old baby. The baby was born in the woods underneath the meteor shower, Perseid, and was named after the phenomena. This month, the Task Force member was excited to announce that the family had received help; the parents were able to find jobs and are now looking for a home.
This success is the result of different organizations pulling together to provide resources to those in need. Foothills United Way’s partner, The Emergency Family Assistance Association (EFAA), recently submitted a request for a grant on behalf of the Task Force from the Community Foundation that would open up a Mountain Advocate position. The individual selected would work ten hours a week and serve as a case manager based in the mountains for people in the mountain region. Case managers from around the Boulder-Broomfield region regularly meet to discuss ideas and brainstorm solutions for the people they represent: having an advocate for the mountain region included in these conversations is a huge step in spreading awareness and getting people the help they need.
The Peak to Peak Housing and Human Services Task Force, together with Foothills United Way and EFAA, are diligently working to get people the resources they need to thrive and won’t stop until they do!