Boise homelessness experts discuss ways to address issues

Three leaders from Boise's homeless services sector participated in a forum Thursday, seeking solutions to the growing problem of homelessness in Idaho's Treasure Valley.  Clockwise from top left: Idaho Statesman reporter Rachel Spacek, forum moderator;  Stephanie Day, Executive Director of CATCH;  Reverend Bill Roscoe, president and CEO of Boise Rescue Mission Ministries;  and Jodi Peterson-Stigers, executive director of Interfaith Sanctuary.

Three leaders from Boise’s homeless services sector participated in a forum Thursday, seeking solutions to the growing problem of homelessness in Idaho’s Treasure Valley. Clockwise from top left: Idaho Statesman reporter Rachel Spacek, forum moderator; Stephanie Day, Executive Director of CATCH; Reverend Bill Roscoe, president and CEO of Boise Rescue Mission Ministries; and Jodi Peterson-Stigers, executive director of Interfaith Sanctuary.

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Solving homelessness in Idaho’s Treasure Valley will take everyone.

That’s what panelists who work in the field told an online forum while discussing a range of topics related to homelessness, housing prices and what can be done to address these issues.

“Homelessness and housing are such complicated and complex issues that we all need to be at the table. It has to be public, it has to be private, we all have to come together and create the will to move forward together,” said Stephanie Day, executive director of CATCH, a social service agency working to end family homelessness. “We have the resources to be able to do it. It’s really something like: Do we have the will to do it together?

Day, along with Boise Rescue Mission CEO and President Rev. Bill Roscoe and Interfaith Shrine Executive Director Jodi Peterson-Stigers, spoke at Thursday’s forum hosted by the Idaho statesman. . They discussed the housing shortage, the effects of this shortage and what can be done to stem the trend of increasing homelessness.

Shortage of housing supply

Waiting lists for affordable housing, Peterson-Stigers said, are often two to four years long. On his way to ending family homelessness in the Boise area, Day said CATCH’s goal is to reduce that timeframe to two months. Lack of supply, rising prices and increased demand have strained the system.

Roscoe pointed to Idaho’s growth. The increase in demand has pushed up prices and swallowed up the supply of housing. Even someone who may have been hired for a job and is ready to leave a shelter might have difficulty finding affordable housing.

“That’s why the rescue mission developed our own transitional life,” Roscoe said. He said the rescue mission has 50 apartments where people who previously stayed in mission shelters can transition to independent living, and is preparing another 60 in a former assisted living facility on Curtis Road.

New housing being built will increase housing supply and could help people settle here, but its cost means it won’t help people coming out of homelessness, he said.

Day said five years ago, CATCH customers — who typically rented the cheapest possible units they could find — paid $650 a month in rent in Ada County and $535 in County. of Canyon. Now they pay $1,027 in Ada County and $1,008 in Canyon County.

Five years ago, Day said most CATCH clients made between $7.25 and $9 an hour. Now they earn between 12 and 14 dollars an hour. But the increase has not kept pace with housing costs. Even if a single parent made $15 an hour and made $2,000 a month, that person would need to find rent of $600 a month or less to avoid being overburdened with housing costs.

“The housing market has skyrocketed and incomes have gone up a bit, but not at the same rate as this housing,” Day said. “So we’re kind of in this Bermuda triangle of housing, things coming together to create very low vacancy and very high rent rates.”

While panelists said there is no typical type of person who becomes homeless, they highlighted key demographics.

Day said low-income people are often the most likely to become homeless. Peterson-Stigers said older people and people on fixed incomes have been made increasingly vulnerable by rising housing costs. Roscoe said those most disconnected from family or social support systems often make up newcomers to the Boise rescue mission.

“No one is truly immune to the eventual experience of homelessness,” Peterson-Stigers said.

What can you do to help?

To help tackle homelessness, Roscoe suggested supporting agencies such as Rescue Mission, CATCH and Interfaith Sanctuary. The rescue mission does not receive government funding, so its four shelters, two in Boise and two in Nampa, are funded by donations.

Day said homelessness is often misunderstood, so learning about homelessness, learning about what CATCH does and who CATCH works with could affect how people view the topic.

“I think we could really be a game changer,” Day said, “if we could change the public perception of homeless people.”

Peterson-Stigers encouraged people to volunteer with Interfaith Sanctuary, advocate for affordable housing by showing up at town hall meetings, and participate in programs like the Boise Tiny House Pilot Program or add secondary suites to their homes. property to help increase housing supply. She also pointed to Leap Housing Solutions, which is another organization working to build affordable housing in the area using donated land.

What can the government do to help?

Day acknowledged the Idaho Legislature’s history of not supporting possible housing solutions. She said the state government has a lot of power over what local municipalities can do. Rent caps, for example, are something she wouldn’t expect the state to allow.

“So our best bet, unless things change at the (state) level, would probably be to work to get people to create affordable housing,” Day said.

She gave the example of offering an incentive for people who rent out their home as an AirBnb to convert it to a rental for someone to stay full time.

Roscoe said he does not believe in rent control, but the government could promote support for building shelters and housing for low-income people by waiving fees.

Peterson-Stigers said one possible solution would be to vote for elected officials who support housing solutions.

“It’s not okay to just say, ‘No, that doesn’t work for us,’ because it has to be a statewide movement, then a county, then a one city, we all have to do it together,” Peterson-Stigers said. “But we can’t just sit back and say it’s not possible because of our legislation, we really have to fight and vote and find leaders who will make it a priority.”

Peterson-Stigers explained how zoning codes allowing a variety of housing types can play a key role in addition to laws that promote affordable housing. Adding more living units would make a big difference, she said. But many solutions come down to the state level.

“We need to build a state government,” Peterson-Stigers said, “that is thoughtful in how it approaches and wants to engage in these conversations.”

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