BOISE -- A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit over the city of Boise's controversial anti-camping ordinance.
That lawsuit was filed back in 2009 on behalf of a group of homeless people who have been convicted of violating the law, which makes it illegal for homeless people to sleep in public places in the City of Trees.
City of Boise Spokesperson Mike Journee says in 2015, more than 300 citations have been issued for illegal camping.
Last year, the number of citations handed out was closer to 80.
Lawyers representing the plaintiffs in this case have argued Boise's anti-camping ordinance unconstitutionally punishes people for being homeless.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs did not return our calls for comment.
In his ruling, Judge Ronald E. Bush cited the city's policy of not enforcing those ordinances when local nonprofit service providers have no capacity to provide services to homeless individuals. He noted that there "is no known citation of a homeless individual under the ordinances for camping or sleeping on public property on any night or morning when he or she was unable to secure shelter due to a lack of shelter capacity."
Journee says it's rare for every available bed to be taken. He told us Boise police keep close tabs on the homeless population, adding that officers check in daily with shelters to make sure there is room.
He told us Boise Mayor Dave Bieter is excited about the judge's decision.
"It allows us to continue to watch out for the public health and safety of our residents, including those who are homeless," added Journee.
Mayor Bieter released this statement:
"We agree with and are very pleased by the court's decision to dismiss this lawsuit. Our efforts on behalf of those in our community who are experiencing homelessness are concrete. Now, with this case behind us, we will be able to better focus on creating positive gains against this challenging societal problem. Moving forward, the city of Boise's priorities will continue to be protecting the health and safety of all residents, while working with our governmental, non-profit, corporate and faith-based partners on next steps toward long-term, holistic gains for our most vulnerable residents."
We asked Journee what those next steps are and he said more details will be released soon.
Meanwhile, he told us city leaders are aware dozens of people continue to set up camp outside the Interfaith Sanctuary in downtown Boise.
Journee says the situation isn't healthy or safe and something needs to be done.
"We're encouraging people to take advantage of the resources that are available to them, but in the long term we are looking at working with our partners there, with the land, with the property owners, with the business owners in the area about a solution to remedy that so that they can move on with a normal situation," he said.
Journee told KTVB the city of Boise administers more than $4 million in federal and local funding that addresses the complex issues of homelessness and affordable housing in Ada County. According to a news release, the city also funds and manages more than 300 units of affordable housing for families and individuals at a number of locations in the city.
The president and CEO of the Boise Rescue Mission, Rev. Bill Roscoe, responded to the judge's decision in a written statement.
"The Boise Rescue Mission supports the City of Boise's efforts to move people from a dangerous, unhealthy sleeping situation to a safe, clean and protected place of shelter, such as our Ministry and other designated shelters provide.
The Mission has cooperated with the City of Boise to insure that the City and people who may be campers are informed of the availability of beds in Mission shelters. The Mission has not and will not turn any person needing shelter away. If the beds are full accommodations are made for a comfortable sleeping arrangement on a floor.
The Mission has had an open door policy from our inception. We welcome anyone who is homeless and make provision for men, women and children to be able to sleep without fear of dangerous people, inclement weather, and unhealthy conditions."
It's unclear if the federal judge's decision to dismiss the case can be appealed.