Boulder Shelter for the Homeless
We are Ending Homelessness One Person at a Time
Although known for providing up to 160 beds each night and hot meals, the Boulder Shelter for the Homeless is actually Housing Focused and is committed to the idea of leveraging its efforts and resources to effect as many exits from homelessness as possible. Housing Focus is an approach that prioritizes breaking the cycle of homelessness by focusing on any available assistance and intervention that leads to a stable place to live, as quickly as possible.
How Housing Focused Shelter Works
Housing Focused shelter works by providing temporary shelter to people experiencing homelessness while rapidly working to connect them with permanent housing solutions. We provide a pathway to permanent housing, based on a foundation of safe shelter, food, and case management support that helps them overcome the many obstacles they face in obtaining permanent housing. Every single client staying at the Shelter is offered the same access to resources and services that will help them end their homelessness.
Housing Focused Results
Since adopting the Housing Focused approach in 2017, we have helped close to 500 people obtain permanent housing. In 2022 we assisted 90 people in exit homelessness into permanent housing.
Read More About our Housing Focused Approach
Click Here to see more about what we do and what kinds of services comprise our approach to ending homelesses in Boulder.
We believe that all people deserve the necessities of life and that the community in which we live is called to serve this purpose.
To create avenues to stable housing for our community’s homeless adults,from a foundation of supportive and safe shelter.
Our Core Values
Treat all with dignity. Offer support and opportunity. Achieve results through competence and creativity. Practice responsible stewardship.
Collaborative, Solution Oriented, Effective
Chief Program Officer
Chief Development & Communications Officer
Length of Service: 1 year
"I love that we’re actually making a difference. We’re creating real housing solutions to homelessness.”
Director of Shelter Services
Assistant Director of Shelter Services
Director of Facilities
Permanent Supportive Housing Program Manager
Permanent Supportive Housing Deputy Program Manager
Client Services Manager
Development & Grants Manager
Human Resource Manager
Volunteer Program Manager
Revenue & Data Integration Manager
Program Staff Supervisor
Program Staff Supervisor
Permanent Supportive HousingTeam
The Boulder Shelter also has many dedicated Program Staff, Support Staff and Case Managers who not only provide support and care to the people in our programs, but also ensure the programs remain open and operational year-round. Without all of our staff, this work could not get done!
Grassroots Efforts ➟ Growing Solutions
In the winter of 1982, in response to the death of a local homeless veteran who died of exposure in downtown Boulder, a group of concerned citizens formed the Task Force on Shelter and Food for the Poor, the precursor to the Boulder Shelter for the Homeless.
In 1987, the Shelter became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation and moved to 4645 N. Broadway in order to expand its services to those in need. In 2003, the Shelter opened a new facility in north Boulder that remains the location for the Shelter’s core services today.
The Shelter is a community shelter, and relies on the support of those donors and volunteers who refuse to stand idly by while others suffer through bitterly cold nights for lack of housing.
Barbara Farhar, the original director of the Shelter Task Force, below shares her story of the Shelter’s humble, and inspiring, beginnings.
It started entirely as a grass-roots volunteer effort, just concerned people who wanted to do something about homelessness. There was an abandoned bus terminal downtown which was OK’d for temporary use, and Sister Donna Ryan of St. Thomas Aquinas ran the Shelter for a few months that first winter, then closed it in the spring.
A city official at the time had done a “study” and concluded that there were 24 homeless people in Boulder, and they all chose to live on the street, so no shelter was necessary. We felt a little differently, so I was elected chair of the Task Force and charged with finding a site – the bus terminal was going to be torn down. Sister Donna was about to leave Boulder after being reassigned, but had decided that a recently vacated building at 5th and Canyon would make a great shelter. So she was praying about that.
The site Sister Donna had selected was on the market for $250,000. The Shelter Task Force had $127,000. So we had someone running around town looking for an affordable site, but with only weeks to go before the snow started flying, it looked hopeless.
Then some investors purchased the site at 5th and Canyon, which had a large, almost-windowless metal building on it. They were holding the property for future development, but wanted a tax break in the meantime. Through Task Force contacts, the investors decided to donate the building and lease the property to us for $200 a month. It was an unbelievable break. Sister Donna must have had her connections, that’s all I can say.
We had a building, but there was a tremendous amount of work to be done before it could house people, and we still had no money. I went to see Reverend Bert Womack, who headed the St. Francis Center in Denver, and spent an hour explaining what the Task Force was trying to do. The issue of money wasn’t even really brought up. Then, after I was out of my chair and heading to the door, the Reverend said, “Oh, just a minute – I’ll be sending you $500 a month for the next year to support the Shelter.” I couldn’t believe it.
Then we started making appeals through local media and raised some money, so our kitty grew to about $15,000. Still, there was much to be done. I remember walking through the building with city inspectors on a freezing afternoon, trying to take notes while wearing ski gloves because we hadn’t been able to get the gas or electricity turned on. There were no lights, no heat.
But things we needed would just appear. Every morning I’d go in and find donations out front … mattresses, sheets, even a washer and dryer. One day a man came walking in and said he was a carpenter … could we use his help? Someone had donated two dozen sheets of drywall, so he got to work.
The new Shelter was finally ready to open in January, and provided shelter for 225 people that winter, not 24. Word got out that there was no kitchen, so volunteers started bringing in food, and there was even a doctor who would come by to do examinations.
The community wanted this to happen – it never would’ve happened without that. It became a community agency, and has been so since, showing that people can make a difference, that real change is possible.
It was all just miracles happening – and as much as we gave, we kept getting back even more. A couple came in to make a donation, and said, “You have no idea how grateful we are you’re doing this. Our son is mentally ill and has wandered away, and we just pray that wherever he is, someone else is doing what you are here … we feel like you’re doing this for everybody’s children.”