An Alternative To Neighborhood Watch? Project ALERT (A Loving Environment Requires Tending)

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Richard Showers wasn’t happy about what he was seeing happen at Collyer Park, across the street from his home.

Richard Showers, Founder of ALERT

A Longmont resident for the last 36 years, he felt the need to get more involved and to address the problems he was seeing develop, especially with the influx of more homeless people than the city has ever seen before.

Mr. Showers investigated the Neighborhood Watch program, but found that it was “kind of defunct”.

He asked, “what can we do to make the neighborhood a safer place?” He decided that inclusiveness, respect for property and communication were the answer.

He felt that neighborhoods and communications about people IN neighborhoods was important.

Richard initially started a ‘park cleanup’ call on NextDoor to walk the park at 8:45 a.m. every M-F at the SW shelter where the homeless tend to congregate. He felt that if people came together and went to pick up the park, they’d be able to introduce themselves to the people living in the park and start to break down walls between the residents and the homeless.

One day, in early October, a homeless person walking by said to Mr. Showers that one of the regular homeless people in the park needed a welfare check. He realized, at that point, he wasn’t invisible to them and they weren’t invisible to him anymore. The homeless person who spoke to him made him realize they were aware. He started going over and sitting and talking with the homeless people that were camping out in the shelter. Conversations started taking place and it all began with doing the trash pickup on a regular basis. He felt it was a real barrier breaker that lowered the fear level that tends to be inherent between the local homeowners and the local homeless. This created a sort of ‘sense of safety’ that had been missing. They were no longer strangers.

This made Richard, who was aware of the OUR Center but had no real idea what the OUR Center did, look more into how they could help the homeless vs. the usual approach of simply calling the police on them to get them out of sight and out of mind.

Richard looked online and found they were having a Coffee with a Cause event. He invited people, again on NextDoor, to find out more about the OUR center. He realized that many people had questions about how to deal with the issues of homelessness. This lead him to the realization that, “we need training opportunities to help make stronger neighborhoods and neighborhood connections.”

Mr. Showers says, “we have 29.5 square miles of Longmont with 73 designated neighborhoods.” His neighborhood, Historic Eastside Neighborhood Association (HENA) had neighbors that were interested in being better neighbors and citizens but were lacking that knowledge on how to do it.

Richard’s answer: A class for people that show people how to work with their neighbors and how to use local resources like the HOPE and OUR Center to learn what they really do.

He went to the OUR Center and asked if they could have a class there, found he could, and set up a class for every third Thursday morning of the month for the next year.

At the same time, Richard started a ‘neighborhood walk-around’,  and also announced on NextDoor, to get people to walk through his neighborhood and meet the neighbors. They take trash bags with them. If they see anyone out, they introduce themselves and pick up trash as they go. They’ve done five so far over the last five weeks to cover their neighborhood starting with streets, and then the alleys. When they’re done and have covered it all, they start over. The goal is to create a safe, healthy neighborhood community.

First, Mr. Showers created a group that cleans up and gets to know the people in the park. Then he created a group that walks around the neighborhood and get’s to know people and create a more cohesive neighborhood. Next, he knew, was to create a way to enable the dissemination of knowledge. The best way to do that was to create a class to explain the available resources, and how to build a strong neighborhood.

He thought the OUR Center fed the homeless and that HOPE took food and clothing out to the homeless, and that’s all he knew. What he found was that both organizations, along with the Boulder Homeless Shelter and the local police force are working toward helping the homeless to become not homeless, and have modified their approaches to focus on fixing the problem, first and foremost.

That first ‘third Thursday’ monthly class on what these organizations are doing and how the residents of the city can use and work with those resources will be held at the OUR Center – 220 Collyer Street, Longmont CO, 80501, on Thursday, November 16th at 9:30 a.m.  He calls it the Empowered Neighbors Longmont / Community Education & Training.

In this first meeting, you’ll learn about the ALERT project; what services do the OUR Center and HOPE provide and you’ll get a Community Safety Class presentation by the Longmont Public Safety (Police) organization.

The Longmont Observer will be live streaming this class on our facebook page and making it available on our website, as well.

For the latest information, you can check out the Empowered Neighbors Longmont facebook group.

Call or text Richard Showers at 303-845-2785 to reserve your place.

You can download and listen to our interview with Richard Showers by clicking here.