Tuesday, January 28, 2014

BW Video: City Hall Fundraiser/Demonstration Raises Funds, Empathy for Boise's Homeless

Posted By on Tue, Jan 28, 2014 at 1:04 PM

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click to enlarge Demonstrators gather in front of Boise City Hall to raise funds and awareness for housing the city's homeless population. - KEELY MILLS
  • Keely Mills
  • Demonstrators gather in front of Boise City Hall to raise funds and awareness for housing the city's homeless population.

It was a chilly 25 degrees outside as a dozen allies of the Boise/Ada County Homeless Coalition arrived in front of Boise City Hall Tuesday morning. The stated reason why they had convened was to raise money for housing local people experiencing homelessness. But, armed with yogurt containers and a few placards, few anticipated making enough money to put a dent in the number of Boiseans who are enduring the city's frigid inversion without the comfort and security of a home.

"We could raise $100-$500. The fundraising aspect is really secondary," said Shavone Hess of the Boise/Ada County Homeless Coalition. 

The real goal, advocates said, was to raise awareness of Boise's homeless problem at a time when those who don't have homes or changes of warm clothes are most in need of community care and support.

"One benefit of this demonstration is that it builds empathy," Hess said.

Convening in front of City Hall was part of that strategy. In 2013, the Boise City Council passed—and later lost to an ACLU legal challenge—an ordinance specifically prohibiting aggressive panhandling that polarized the community on how the city should handle what was seen by some to be overly assertive requests for money. According to Kathy Griesmeyer of the ACLU, one of the event's organizers, that discussion extended beyond issues of free speech to the homeless, as well.

"There was anti-homeless sentiment that was raised around [the time of the ordinance's passage]," she said.

At 11 a.m., the demonstrators broke into small groups and migrated across downtown to collect donations. Hess stayed close to City Hall, taking a seat with her acoustic guitar at the fountain near the corner of Capitol Boulevard and Idaho Street.

"I've got maybe two songs that I have down. If I have two hours, I might as well practice," she said. 

She was joined by Lydia Winter of Supportive Housing and Innovative Partnerships, who said she became passionate about the issue of homelessness for civil rights reasons.

"I believe that housing is a basic human right," she said. "Hopefully we'll raise some money and visibility in the community."

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