Advocates for the homeless in Boulder are renewing their calls for year-round shelter after the discovery this weekend of the fifth person to die outside since the beginning of April.
People who knew Daniel Kitlitz, 27, said he was a kind, compassionate person who also appeared to struggle with addiction. Kitlitz’s body was found early Saturday in an alley near the Pearl Street Mall.
Summer Sadira said Kitlitz saved her life when she was a drunk, suicidal, runaway teen seven years ago.
He pushed her out of the way of an oncoming truck as she walked in traffic on Canyon Boulevard, she said. Then he carried her to the Shell gas station at Canyon Boulevard and 15th Street, found her cell phone, called her mom, and stayed with her until her parents came.
Sadira said she now lives a stable life with her children in the metro area.
“He was a really beautiful person,” Sadira said Monday. “Very calm. Very compassionate. I think he was lost in the whole scene, but he also wanted to be there for people. I was in a really bad space in my life, and he touched my life.”
The Boulder County Coroner’s Office has not yet determined the cause and manner of death for Kitlitz, and a ruling could take several weeks.
Two of the other recent homeless deaths also remain under investigation, while one has been ruled to be due to alcohol poisoning and another blunt force trauma, with the manner undetermined.
Recent Boulder homeless deaths
Janice ‘CJ’ Adams: Adams, 53, was discovered April 4 in the area of the Boulder Creek Path underpass near the intersection of Arapahoe Avenue and Broadway. She died of alcohol poisoning.
Ralph Devore: Devore, 51, was found April 5 just east of the intersection of College Avenue and Broadway on the University of Colorado campus. He died of blunt-force injuries, but the manner of death is undetermined.
Thomas Cornell: The body of Cornell, 32, formerly of Colorado Springs, was found in a drainage ditch behind the Boulder Target store at 2800 Pearl St. on April 15. The cause and manner of his death are undetermined.
Kathryn J. Fishman: Fishman, 59, died during the night of May 10 sleeping alongside a building at Scott Carpenter Park. Her death is still under investigation.
Daniel Kitlitz: The body of Kitlitz, 27, was found Saturday in an alley off the Pearl Street Mall. His death is under investigation.
Activist Joy Redstone, who has a long history working in social services, said the issue of mortality among homeless people is complex, and there is rarely a single cause of death, as people might have a combination of poorly treated medical conditions, addiction, exposure to the elements and higher risk of violence and accidents.
Redstone said the series of deaths appear to be a terrible coincidence, with each having its own cause, but they all point to problems in the community’s social safety net.
“This is not having year-round shelter and inadequate addiction treatment, inadequate continuum of care and people are dropping through the holes that always existed,” she said. “This is galvanizing people. We have been saying this for years, and now it’s showing up in this chain of events.”
Redstone is working with Boulder Rights Watch, which organized around the Boulder City Council’s vote to restore the possibility of jail time for municipal offenses, to encourage people to speak to the City Council tonight and during regular open comment periods to call for year-round shelter.
The Boulder Shelter for the Homeless operates its emergency shelter from Oct. 15 to April 30. Boulder Outreach for Homeless Overflow runs an emergency shelter in a rotating group of churches and synagogues when weather conditions are cold and wet.
But camping — defined as sleeping with any shelter, including a blanket — is illegal in Boulder, and there is no summer shelter available to the general population.
“There is a consensus among providers that that is a need,” Redstone said. “We’re trying to keep up a pretty constant presence at City Council, which generally only hears from that portion of the community that has negative impressions of homelessness.”
Kitlitz had his share of run-ins with the law, including arrests for theft and drug possession. But Redstone knew Kitlitz and said he was “cheerful, friendly, a very sweet kid.”
Sadira said Boulder has so many resources, yet the services for people “who have fallen on the wrong path” just aren’t there.
“I haven’t slept, thinking about the fact that he died on the side of a building alone,” she said.