Homeless camp under overpass raises safety concerns

City and shelter worry camp is a danger

BOISE -- Police and the Boise Rescue Mission are growing more concerned about a homeless camp where a murder happened earlier this week.

We spoke with both groups who say that despite their efforts to stop it, they're worried the downtown camp is not safe for the people living there or for the public.

Karen Shay has been staying at the homeless camp for months and told us that she is not concerned about safety.

She says it's a tight-knit community here, and says as long as the weather is nice, it's comfortable and quiet.

But both the city and rescue mission disagree, and say this camp needs to go before someone else gets hurt.

For the people who sleep on 16th Street, a spot beneath the overpass has become home.

"Right now, I'm staying warm and I'm content where I am," said Shay.

Shay has been here since the spring and says the murder earlier this week was an isolated incident, adding that normally this is a close group who looks out for each other and isn't violent. But the Bill Roscoe with the Boise Rescue Mission says otherwise.

"If any good thing comes out of the horrible tragedy of the murder there, I hope it is that the people of the community realize that you don't understand who might be in that crowd of people there," said Roscoe.

Roscoe says they've been worried about the camp for months, and says there's plenty of space for the homeless in local shelters.

"It's too bad, it's really too bad we can't bring them in and get them off the street, but it's a personal decision for these folks and no one is going to force them to leave," said Roscoe.

But the city and Boise police have been trying to do just that.

"Our bike patrol officers have been very actively working, talking to people in that area for several months now," said Vinci Tromboli with the city of Boise.

In early October, they put "No Camping" signs above the makeshift beds.

Then, officers started writing warnings, 96 in just a week.

In mid-October, they started writing citations, mostly for camping illegally, and so far they've issued 44.

And they say, it's working.

"Certainly the number of people sleeping at night has gone down," said Tromboli.

But Shay, who says she's received five citations, tells us it hasn't changed anything.

"No, like I said, we're die hards," said Shay.

As for why people like Shay would rather sleep here, outside, instead of inside -- she says the rules at shelters are simply too strict.

"Just getting up and doing what I want, if I want to go to the store I don't have to ask anybody, it's just more freedom," said Shay.

The city and the rescue mission say another big problem is the trash that's now piled up in this area, causing health concerns.

Both agencies says it's because people in the public have been dropping off food and clothing to the people living here.

They say that's not the best idea, and are asking people looking to donate items to do so through an organization instead.


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