BOISE, Idaho — A growing group of individuals experiencing homelessness camped outside the old Ada County Courthouse.
The demonstration is to draw attention to the lack of affordable housing and available emergency shelter beds, the group told KTVB.
Some advocates in attendance identified themselves as members of Boise Mutual Aid – a group working to help local community members meet their needs. Others say they are directly affected by homelessness and sleeping on sidewalks or in their car.
Sherry Jo Crandall is part of the latter. Her landlord evicted her in November, and ever since, Crandall has been living in her car.
“I've had to get rid of a lot of my personal belongings, so I have the space,” Crandall said. “We’re trying to end the stigma. There are families, single people like myself, that are affected by homelessness.”
The Boise Planning and Zoning Commission denied Interfaith Sanctuary’s conditional use permit to relocate their shelter to a larger facility on West State Street. This is an example of fewer resources being made available to people who need them, according to Crandall.
Interfaith reported Saturday their shelter is already overflowing. Interfaith staff turned away 20 people in need of overnight shelter that same night.
“If [Interfaith] had the space and the ability to help us, we would go there,” Crandall said.
But this isn’t a problem everywhere. Boise Rescue Mission can shelter up to 500 people across their 5 shelters, according to Reverend Bill Roscoe. Right now, BRM is sheltering 350 people with capacity available at all 5 shelters.
“There certainly isn't a shortage. Anyone who shows up at the rescue mission today would be served,” Roscoe said. “You gotta be on good behavior, you gotta cooperate with staff and things like that. And some of our homeless friends don't want anything to do with that. So they won't come to us.”
Boise Rescue Mission is not a one-size-fits-all solution, according to Crandall. Each shelter has a set of barriers – rules that must be followed to use the service. Boise Rescue Mission is strict, demonstrators said.
“You can't be an alcoholic, you can't use drugs,” Crandall said. “A lot of people get very defensive with that and don't want to deal with it so they just don't stay there.”
“The truth of the matter is we have capacity at the Boise Rescue Mission for men, women, and children and we invite any homeless person to come over, check in with us, spend the night and take advantage of all the services the Rescue Mission has to offer,” Roscoe said.
Demonstrators are not leaving their campsite outside the old Ada County Courthouse until they’re kicked out, the group told KTVB. Idaho State Police observed the camp just after 5 p.m. Monday and left after taking pictures and speaking with a few demonstrators.
The City of Boise presented a housing needs analysis in August. Boise needs 27,000 new affordable housing units over the next decade to serve the growing demand according to the analysis. The process will cost $5 billion according to the city.
This event also comes at a time after Meridian Rep. Joe Palmer introduced a proposed new law to forbid any local government in Idaho from regulating fees or deposits for residential rental property. After the city of Boise passed an ordinance capping rental application fees at $30 in Dec. 2019, and also imposing other restrictions, including allowing such fees only for a unit that will be available to rent in “a reasonable time period.” City Council members said the aim was to assist low-income residents in Boise’s increasingly competitive and expensive housing market.
For anyone looking to donate or help those experiencing homelessness can reach out to homeless services and emergency shelters including:
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