While the emotional and at times irrational debate about relocating Interfaith Housing Services 20 blocks out State Street in the former Salvation Army Service Center and Thrift Store has been divisive and pitted neighbor against neighbor, homelessness remains an issue that isn’t going to get addressed as this debate rages on. It is our hope homelessness or the houseless can become temporary for families, addicts, veterans and anyone who is in need. Our society continues to put individual liberties above the common good and many who dislike that fact are guilty of the rampant NIMBYism that is antithetical to the common good.
As always, do your own research and get the facts – to access all documents with the City of Boise for the IFS Conditional Use Permit CUP21-00026 – click here.
As someone who has intimate personal experience with the affects of addiction and homelessness, I am committed to finding best practices for meeting the challenges head on.
✅ Be sure to review the Boise Faith Community open letter in support of IFS by clicking here.
Interfaith Sanctuary Background
Interfaith Sanctuary Housing Services is a collaboration of people of faith and people of conscience who have joined together to shelter and serve individuals experiencing homelessness. Sanctuary provides overnight shelter for men, women, and children and provides supportive services that promote greater self-sufficiency, improved well-being, and permanent housing acquisition.
In November 2005, Interfaith Sanctuary was created in response to a crisis of homelessness in Boise. Community-based organizations that serve people who are homeless reported to a gathering of faith leaders that 250 – 300 homeless individuals were sleeping on the ‘streets’ and were either unable or unwilling to go to other shelter services in the city. In response, Interfaith Sanctuary opened a temporary emergency shelter, first in a local house of worship and then in a downtown warehouse.
In the fall of 2007, Interfaith Sanctuary purchased a 10,200 sq. foot building in downtown Boise on River St. and opened the doors for year-round shelter and services on November 1, 2007.
Family and youth homelessness is sometimes referred to as “invisible homelessness” because moms, kids, teens and young adults often seek shelter in public places that are perceived to be safer: a hospital emergency room, bus station, campground or park, even an abandoned building. That, or they live “doubled-up” with another family or crammed into a cheap motel room.
Veterans can face many obstacles when they return to civilian life that put them at risk for homelessness including difficulties finding affordable housing and earning a livable income. Many homeless veterans suffer from mental health challenges, drug and/or alcohol abuse and “co-occurring disorders” like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
One of the most common types of homelessness is transitional homelessness. These folks are are likely to be younger and generally enter a shelter or temporary housing system for only one brief stay. This situation could be the result of a catastrophic event or sudden life or financial change.
State Street Expansion Proposal
Interfaith Sanctuary believes the State Street plan will further the goals of Housing First, address the immediate needs of our community’s most fragile members, and provide opportunity for the working homeless to have a more dignified existence as the larger community works to address the dearth of truly affordable housing. While the proposal will increase housing over the current location by about 25%, the total square footage is three times the current location allowing for expansion of services and programs.
The group(s) opposing the IFS shelter tend to characterize the IFS proposal in the most negative light possible and of course those who are for the proposed location are putting it into the most positive light. I have weighed the pros and cons and come up with my own assessment.
In a nutshell those opposed to the move to State Street say:
- Interfaith Sanctuary didn’t look hard enough for an alternative site.
The problem with this is the State Street site has virtually all the characteristics needed at a price that works. The Red Lion Hotel was priced at $80,000 a room or around $15 Million; the old fire training area on Shoreline is basically bare ground and is valued at $3.2 Million, other sites proposed were too small or simply too far from the downtown corridor and essential services. The IFS board is very experienced and did its due diligence well in advance of the proposal to move to State Street.
- It is being characterized as a “megashelter”.
In actuality, so-called “megashelters” are typically shelters with that house upwards of 400 – 500 or more. The proposed IFS shelter would have a total population of 240 or less.
- Because it is a low-barrier shelter it will be overrun with violent, male drug addicts –
It is anticipated there will be fewer than 30 beds allocated for single men. It is certainly possible the number will be higher depending on changes in the houseless population. Keep in mind there is no organization with more experience in this arena than IFS. I also know from personal experience how important it is to have experience and partners like St. Alphonsus who work with the chronically homeless and addiction every day.
- Essential services are too far away.
Besides the fact IFS has a plan in place to include medical, security and transportation essentials on-site, other services already exist nearby. Terry Reilly Dental is a few blocks away and there are social service organizations located within a few blocks as well. St. Alphonsus RMC is 8 minutes away.
- Many of the other arguments like a negative impact on property values have all been largely refuted or not proven at best. The idea Willow Lane and the Greenbelt will be overrun with homeless people is also disingenuous. The fact is there has always been a homeless population between along the Greenbelt, at Veteran’s Memorial Park and Willow Lane Athletic Complex.
Homeless in our Public Schools
It is so important to recognize there is a larger than normal homeless population in area schools as that no one seems to want to address, which saddens me. Taft has ~14 homeless kids while Whittier has as many as 50+ houseless kids according to data collected by the Idaho Department of Education. There is a direct connection between where the unhoused population is and where housing can be made available in the IFS proposal. This general area in Boise would be well served to have more housing, short-term or otherwise, available especially for houseless families.
The statistics above are provided by the Idaho State Department of Education. Look up you school by clicking here.
The bottom line is IFS isn’t a government entity. The fact IFS is an NGO – non-governmental agency – makes some of the arguments against the State Street location essentially invalid.
IFS Opposition Tactics
As I have endeavored to study the issue I have come across several tactics I find to be distasteful including imposter accounts, trolling activities, harmful, sometimes threatening rhetoric and comments, etc. As a result of the tactics being used by some involved with this issue – apparently because they thought if Trump could get away with it, why can’t they – we have implemented a new policy for the Facebook group:
“A fake Facebook account is considered a form of identity theft and their use in this group will not be tolerated. The person who creates and/or uses an imposter account will be also blocked and reported.”
Some examples of the tactics include the following:
Someone with an obviously temporary Twitter account named Masterson has spent days digging up “dirt” on Curtis Stigers, Jodi Peterson-Stigers husband. View his collection by clicking here. If the link fails to work, the collection may have been deleted. It included contentious and accusatory Twitter threads between Masterson and others with our old friend Curtis Stigers.
The fake “Sheryl” account shown below uses a photo that was lifted from an 2016 NPR story about a woman who suffers from a serious health issue and lives in Sacramento, not Meridian. An association who discovered the account was fake submitted a few of the “Sheryl” comments to a forensic syntax tool and compared them to others who post to the No Shelter on State group pages and found several who are either copying “Sheryl” or are in actuality “Sheryl”.
We find this type of behavior completely and categorically unacceptable.
As a result of the effort to remove fictitious, deceitful and imposter or impersonation Facebook accounts a few people have been already been blocked. More to come as there are literally millions of fake accounts in existence.