NICHE

The Nederland Interagency Council for Homeless Encampments (NICHE) is a collaborative organization with shared responsibilities that foster public health and safety through care for the vulnerable, stewardship of natural resources, and respect for the needs of the mountain community.

For several summers, NCPC has presided over an amazing group of partners, to address issues related to homelessness on public lands.

You can learn everything about NICHE at their own website: www.p2phhs.org/niche

Here is a link to your camping brochure.

A recent article from the Mountain Ear, When Homelessness Becomes Everyone’s Problem.

And the latest news from NICHE:

Many COVID guidelines are in flux, but for now, the US Forest Service official campgrounds are closed – that is, those areas normally with camp hosts, metal fire rings, and bathrooms – while the dispersed camping areas remain open. Campfires are not allowed anywhere, but people can camp for 14 days, and move to another site 5 miles away for 14 more days.

We welcome Andrew Young, the USFS Boulder District Law Enforcement officer, for his first full summer in the mountains around Nederland! Recreation in the forests, for housed and unhoused individuals, is at an all-time high, so Officer Young and the USFS Boulder Ranger District are working closely with local, county, and law enforcement partners to manage things as best as they can, while still allowing people to get outside. Please, we encourage all recreaters to follow local and state health orders and to be kind to one another.

The Boulder County Sheriff’s Department re-assigned two of their long-time mountain deputies, and now has a larger group of committed officers serving our area. They have all been trained about issues around homeless camping and positive communication, and they are maintaining a cohesive coordination with the Nederland Police. The Sheriff has made it a priority to help educate the public on topics like masking and social distancing.

Trash is a major concern, not only for homeless campers who struggle to carry their bags into town, but also for lazy weekend warriors who drive away from piles of trash at the same camping areas. Sadly, due to COVID, we can no longer rely on Boulder County Jail Crews to help with clean ups. Neither can the USFS assign their employees to re-direct their time for that sort of work. If you find trash in the woods, please call the agency responsible for that area; but know it may take some time to respond. Be extremely careful about any volunteer clean-ups.
Engaging in that is your own risk, from safety and legal perspectives. The good news is that many agencies are allowed to remove anything with caloric content that would endanger wildlife; and the Boulder County Commissioners has partnered with NICHE to pay for removal of any personal trash that a particular homeless camper collects.

The NICHE homeless advocates will continue their work, to connect people in need to existing resources and to educate campers on safe procedures with regard to wildfires, wildlife, waste, water, and weather. They are in regular communication with Boulder County homeless systems and the two homeless outreach agencies. COVID protocols are expected to shift through the
summer, but there will always be hygiene and safety products available in Nederland, health screenings at the Community Church, and a plan to test and isolate anyone who is flagged for symptoms.

From a recent Mountain Ear article: “We are blessed with a good snowpack, experienced homeless service providers, and a solid model to address issues surrounding homelessness. (In fact, there is still a bill waiting at the Capitol, to replicate the NICHE model across other areas of the state.) Still, it could be a worrisome summer in many ways, which makes the stress we are all already under with COVID, worse. Kindness, suspension of judgment and working together as
a supportive community will be our best plan.”