Forum addresses solutions to homelessness in Boise

An expert talked about how citizens can help the homeless.

BOISE - Homelessness is a growing problem in Boise and across the United States.

Earlier this year, the Idaho Housing and Finance Association found 2,247 homeless men, women and children live in Idaho, which is up 14 percent from 2015.

The City Club of Boise held a forum Thursday and brought in an outside expert from Seattle to discuss possible solutions to the problem.

Sara Rankin, a professor at Seattle University School of Law where she directs the Homeless Rights Advocacy Project, said the problem is manageable in Boise.

"Here in Boise, the complexion of the problem is very different than it is in Seattle, but a lot of the same solutions and challenges are the same,” she said.
 
"As the city is growing, we can learn from other cities to see what makes sense and what sort of consequences that we might have as we progress," Richard Newman, the President of City Club of Boise, said.  

Rankin’s number one recommendation is that people have to make changes within themselves.

“The way that we think about homelessness, the way we react to homelessness,” she said. “Can change how we act. It can change the laws that we create and how we enforce them."

She said people need to meet and get to know the homeless population to understand. She said we care more when we know the people.

"It means we have to be comfortable being uncomfortable,” Rankin said. “Really understanding why we the think the way we do, why we react the way that we do will help us figure out when we notice those types of reactions in ourselves. "

Another solution she said could really work in Boise is Housing First, an approach the city is already working on.

"Historically how housing policies have worked is housing policies have depended on the notion that people should fix themselves first. If you have a drug addiction problem, any sort of mental illness, you need to fix that first and then we'll give you housing,” she said. “What Housing First does is provide housing first."

Rankin said this notion has been successful in other places. She said studies show that giving a person a foundation, like a place to live, allows people to get into a position where they can work on other problems.  

“I know so many people in this room have access to resources they have access to political will that's the sort of thing that needs to be opened up to address chronically homeless populations.” 

Copyright 2016 KTVB


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