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Boise Rescue Mission: Demonstrators outside old Ada County courthouse are 'misinformed'

Homeless people have nowhere to turn through cold nights according to demonstrators. But that narrative is receiving pushback from the Boise Rescue Mission.

BOISE, Idaho — Demonstrators outside the old Ada County courthouse have continuously advocated for more resources to aid people experience homelessness for more than two weeks.

"They're not lazy, they're not bums. They just need a hand up, not a handout," said Yogi Pullman, a demonstrator experiencing homelessness.

Boise doesn’t have enough low-barrier shelter, according to demonstrators, as Interfaith Sanctuary has overflowed capacity through the cold winter months. However, there is space at the Boise Rescue Mission.

Pullman and other demonstrators say they won't go there.

"They represent themselves as a Christian mission, and as such, they should be more loving, kind and understanding as Jesus was," Pullman said.

Boise Rescue Mission President Bill Roscoe said demonstrators are misguided and making false claims, including this claim from Pullman: that LGBT people cannot get access to BRM services.

"We've never discriminated against those people of those various categories. And we always do the best we can to accommodate for those people," Rev. Roscoe said. "We're going to likely welcome you in unless you are so intoxicated or under the influence of some substance you cannot walk to the bathroom by yourself, that you cannot communicate with our staff to tell us what we need to know at check-in."

Another claim from critics of the Rescue Mission is that BRM forces religion onto those seeking services, and that if someone experiencing homelessness needs shelter, they must practice Christianity to receive shelter.

"Religion is not forced on anyone who comes to use the shelter services of the Boise Rescue Mission," Rev. Roscoe said. "Every service at the Rescue Mission is a voluntary service."

But the check-in process at BRM alone was enough to push Pullman away.

"It's a long process and it feels degrading," Pullman said. "They make you feel like you're in a prison."

Roscoe said BRM has installed metal detectors in an effort to stop guests from bringing weapons; it's a problem Roscoe said BRM has dealt with in the past.

"We're not going to risk the safety and the comfort of the environment of the Rescue Mission," Roscoe said.

As for families, the Rescue Mission separates guests by sex, which can lead to couples splitting up for the night. But those same couples are reunited in the morning for breakfast and meetings with case workers. Women typically can stay with children. However, provisions are in place to keep single fathers with their children.

That's a theme at the Rescue Mission, Rev. Roscoe said. Rules are in place, but sometimes they are bent.

"We have accepted a lot of people who were highly intoxicated and showed up at our door seeking shelter. And because it was two degrees outside or 12 degrees outside, we've welcomed those people in," he said.

The Our Path Home partnership, which includes the City of Boise, has established a housing crisis line. Call 208-336-HOME (4663) for resources, information and support.

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