For quite some time, Golden city councilmembers and residents alike have talked about worsening homelessness in the city and the need for its government to better to address it. But now, the time has …
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For quite some time, Golden city councilmembers and residents alike have talked about worsening homelessness in the city and the need for its government to better to address it. But now, the time has come to stop talking and start taking some action.
That was the message shared by Golden city manager Jason Slowinski on July 13 as he asked the council to give initial approval to a plan to add as many as two full-time staff positions that he said would give the city the “dedicated resources” to start making real progress on addressing those issues.
“We need dedicated resources to focus on this issue, we’ve done it for sustainability and other areas,” he said. “But right now we don’t have dedicated resources within the city to focus on this priority of yours.”
The first position Slowinski proposed is an affordable housing policy coordinator who would be task with working to expand Golden’s supply of high quality, affordable housing units.
“Some of the specifics would be the development of the city’s housing policy overall which is something we really need to get our arms around as an organization, and then working on housing loan programs and working with land trusts and others to try to move this issue forward sooner rather than later,” he said,
Slowinski also said the city would aim to hire someone who would be knowledgeable about real estate transactions and loans.
The second position Slowinski proposed adding is a Golden-specific homeless navigator.
Last year, the cities of Golden, Wheat Ridge and Edgewater hired a homeless navigator that would work to assist connecting help homeless residents of those three communities get connected to housing and other resources.
However, Slowinski said the city has quickly realized that the amount of time it takes the navigator to conduct those efforts in three different communities has not been as effective as the cities want. As a result, the three cities have had some discussion of adding a second person to also work between the three cities.
“My thought is if you are paying two-thirds of a position you might as well have your own position because there is not much of a difference there,” said Slowinski.
Hiring Golden’s own homeless navigator would give the city someone who could be a more constant presence in the community when it comes to connecting people to resources and helping get them into housing, he said.
“There’s so much work there in terms of not only helping folks connect with those resources but filling out applications for assistance and applying for apartments and those kinds of things that are barriers to our homeless community finding housing,” he said. “They need that assistance and we are not quite getting it done with one-third of a position.”
The city manager said he would normally come to the city with a proposal to add positions as part of the annual budgetary process. However, he said he wanted to bring it up because there is an “opportunity cost” in not doing it sooner.
That’s because there are a number of Federal and state programs that provide dollars for housing that Slowinski said he worries the state is failing to tap into by not having dedicated staff that could increase the city’s eligibility for such money, he said.
During the discussion, Councilman Jim Dale said he supports putting more resources into homelessness but wondered if it made sense to be addressing the issue on a city level rather than a more regional or countywide one.
“How do we do something that’s not only Golden?” he said. “I don’t think we can solve the problem only in Golden.”
Slowinski then responded that he thought a second navigator could do a better job of both helping Golden’s residents and representing the city as it tries to coordinate on larger efforts involving other cities. Currently, many of those efforts are done piecemeal by different staff members, including him, while others are not done at all.
“I don’t think we are putting forward an urgent effort when this is a priority for council,” he said.
Much of the rest of the council expressed a desire to move forward with both positions and not wait until the 2022 budget process kicks off later this year.
However, Mayor Laura Weinberg said that while she supported adding the housing policy coordinator ASAP, she wanted more information about the second position.
“The questions that I have are a lot of the outreach overlaps a bit with what I can see a co-responder program in the police department handling so I would love to understand where the overlap is and is one model better than the other?” she said. “I would like a little information about some of those options before saying let’s go full time staff for Golden through the Jeffco navigator program.”
A co-responder program is a program that involves having police respond with others who can provide services to people experiencing homelessness and mental health crises.
In response to that, Slowinski said he would get the council a report highlighting those options sometime in the next couple of weeks. The council also agreed that Slowinski should move forward with the process of creating a housing policy coordinator position, which would require bringing forward a budget amendment at a future meeting to fund the position.
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