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Interfaith Sanctuary plans to appeal denial of permit for State Street shelter

The Boise Planning and Zoning Commission voted 5-1 against a permit for Interfaith's new location. The City Council could uphold - or overrule - that decision.

BOISE, Idaho — After a year of public meetings, community feedback, and public outreach, the Boise Planning and Zoning Commission on Monday night denied a conditional use permit for Interfaith Sanctuary.

A conditional use permit is needed for Interfaith to operate as a shelter at the old Salvation Army building on West State Street.

"I'm personally very satisfied and I think the word I used is flabbergasted that there would be five commissioners who have really heard what the neighbors have to say," said Bonnie Aitchison, a neighbor with the Veterans Park Neighborhood Association.

During public testimony that spanned over three separate meetings, the Boise Police Department and Boise Fire Department chiefs both said they were neutral about the shelter's potential move. However, commissioners deeply considered public testimony from neighbors about the adverse impacts the potential move could cause, including increased call volumes to law enforcement.

"I think that the neighbors put together a very well-researched, a very comprehensive, very respectful point of view about how we are totally in favor of appropriate shelter for the unhoused," Aitchison said.

Interfaith staff and guests are disappointed with the commission's decision, and still plan to push forward with the move.

"We are all angry and upset a little bit about what happened last night, but we are going to stay positive and move forward," said Joel Gilmer, who is a current guest at Interfaith.

Gilmer arrived at the shelter in 2020 to become sober and joined Project Recovery. He currently works for Republic Services in Boise, but cannot afford his own apartment. According to Gilmer, the commission's decision has him and others at the shelter concerned about where they will go next.

“There is worry, where are we going to sleep, where are we going to be warm, how can we continue to be better ourselves, there is a large contingency there is a big huge group of people that we are getting back into society and we want it to continue,” Gilmer said.

Interfaith Sanctuary executive director Jodi Peterson-Stigers said the commission’s decision did not come as a surprise, and that she believed they would turn the matter over to the city council since the start of the meeting.

“Shelter means people won’t be outside, in your neighborhood, loitering, things like that. The idea that they want to say no to a shelter is saying that we want more people out on the street,” Peterson-Stigers said. "Putting all that blame of medical calls, police calls, incidents on our shelter and not looking at the whole homeless population in the area, that's just unfair and untrue."

She added that Interfaith's current building near River Street and Americana Boulevard has already been sold, but she's working with the owner to keep guests there until they have another building to call home, so long as that next home is the old Salvation Army building.

"At first it was six months, and then we have recently spoken and he said 'look I'm going to be reasonable, I don't want people out on the street either, as long as this process is continuing with this building, I am with you,'” Peterson-Stigers said.

Within the next ten days, Interfaith will submit an appeal to the Boise City Council.

"We are going to raise our voices we are going to call at our community to come and support us and support this move because not time for us to change this conversation,” Peterson Stigers said.

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