Monday, April 20, 2015

Federal Vouchers Secured to Help Idaho's Homeless Vets

Posted By on Mon, Apr 20, 2015 at 1:53 PM

Federal officials announced Monday that they were awarding so-called VASH—or Veterans Affairs Supporting Housing—vouchers in order to help homeless veterans find affordable housing.

Idaho agencies were awarded an additional 31 VASH vouchers, bringing the statewide VASH total to 271 veterans and their families. The Boise City Housing Authority was awarded 11 of the VASH vouchers to be used by the Boise VA Medical Center, bringing that authority's VASH total to 176. Grantees in Coeur d'Alene, Lewiston, Pocatello and Twin Falls also received appropriations for vouchers to serve veterans.

Since 2008, more than 69,000 vouchers have been awarded and over 88,000 homeless vets nationwide have been served through the VASH program which provides rental assistance and other support services.

“Our nation has a sacred responsibility to support the brave men and women who served with honor, courage and distinction,” said HUD Secretary Julian Castro at an announcement today in Seattle. “These vouchers will help thousands of veterans start a new chapter in their lives and build for the future.  
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Saturday, April 11, 2015

Boise VA Opens New PTSD and Substance Abuse Recovery Center

Posted By on Sat, Apr 11, 2015 at 10:47 AM

Carrington College student Tracy Kautz provides dental care for veterans at the homeless stand down in 2012. - GEORGE PRENTICE
  • George Prentice
  • Carrington College student Tracy Kautz provides dental care for veterans at the homeless stand down in 2012.
The United States Veterans Administration has a lofty goal for 2015: ending veteran homelessness. The Boise VA took a step toward meeting that goal on Saturday with the opening of the Transform Recovery Center.

The new center will offer in-patient substance abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder services in what VA representatives have described as a "therapeutic home-like environment that allows veterans the best recovery possible."

Boise VA provides services to approximately 100,000 veterans in southern Idaho and eastern Oregon, and treats nearly 28,000 vets each year through a variety of services. The new center is part of a larger push on the part of the national organization to reduce the number of homeless veterans nationwide. A 2014 report estimated there were nearly 50,000 homeless veterans on a single night in January.

In Boise, efforts have long been under way to serve the city's homeless veterans with Stand Downs, at which veterans and their families can access medical services, as well as warm clothing, boots and other essentials. 
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Saturday, January 3, 2015

Idaho Housing Nonprofits Receive $273,000 in Donations

Posted By on Sat, Jan 3, 2015 at 11:43 AM

From Dec. 10-Dec. 31, 2014, the Home Partnership Foundation held its fourth annual Avenues for Hope Housing Challenge fundraiser, during which more than 1,200 individual donors contributed $148,398 online, according to a news release.

On top of that, eight corporate sponsors gave an additional $125,000 in grants, bringing the total to $273,398 to help 29 housing organizations around the state give shelter to those in need.

The bulk of the money lands in the southwest part of the state—$160,569—with the rest divvied between North and Southeast Idaho.

Here, the money will be given to Corpus Christi ($51,015); Interfaith Sanctuary ($43,689); CATCH, Inc. ($25,250); the Idaho Youth Ranch ($10,860); Advocates Against Family Violence ($10,581); Organization Assisting The Homeless Student ($10,581); the Jesse Tree of Idaho ($5,970); Women's and Children's Alliance ($992); Home Partnership Foundation ($806); the Salvation Army ($403); Good Samaritan Home ($248); Canyon County Habitat for Humanity ($112); and the Catholic Charities of Idaho ($62).

The Home Partnership Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit created by the Idaho Housing and Finance Association. Corporate sponsors included the Bank of Commerce, Barclays Capital, Citigroup, Citizen Community Bank, KeyBank Foundation, Mountain West Bank and Wells Fargo.

Last year, the same fundraiser brought in $233,469. The year before that: $100,014.
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Friday, November 14, 2014

Can You Help Boise's Homeless With Much-Needed Winter Gear?

Posted By on Fri, Nov 14, 2014 at 2:29 PM

Left to right: Justin Davis and Karen Shay - HARRISON BERRY
  • Harrison Berry
  • Left to right: Justin Davis and Karen Shay
Thursday, Nov. 13, Boiseans saw the first snowflakes of winter, and while for many in the Treasure Valley that means spending a few minutes shoveling the sidewalk and raiding the closet for a winter jacket, for Boise's homeless, those flakes are a signal of hard times ahead.

At Boise's Corpus Chrsti Day Shelter, men and women crowded in the lobby and main room. Hallways were congested with people sitting in chairs and milling between the rest rooms and other shelter facilities. There are more people in the shelter than usual—especially children—because of the weather.

"The tension sort of rises a little bit," said Marc Schlegel, who works at Corpus Christi. "Piles of kids in here, but people respond quickly if we ask them to change their behavior because nobody wants to be kicked out of here."

In this week's edition of Boise Weekly, readers heard from community leaders saying that as the weather changes, people should be mindful about giving materials directly to Boise's homeless because it accumulates under the I-84 overpass.

"Our hearts are in the right place and everybody has great intentions. People see a need and want to help. Many of the items are donated by a very generous community. But too often, those items are not being used and they're accumulating," said Interfaith Sanctuary Director Jayne Sorels.

But donations made directly to relief organizations like Interfaith Sanctuary and Corpus Christi are flying off the shelves. Nov. 9, St. Mary's Catholic Church donated wool socks and thermal underwear to Corpus Christi, and by Nov. 11, they were gone. Other items in high demand are gloves and waterproof shoes. Currently there are between five and 10 winter coats available, but almost everything else is in short supply. Women-specific clothing like bras and underwear, said Karen Shay, is particularly lacking.

"We're women; we need this stuff," she said. "People don't like to talk about it."

Under the nearby I-84 overpass, Justin Davis has been directing people across the river to Boise State University, where he said people are being hired to clear the Broncos' blue turf and seats in anticipation of Saturday's home game, but "none of them have gloves on," he said.

Davis said that despite pleas by advocates for people to make donations to shelters and other organizations, cars regularly pull up under the overpass with clothing, coffee and sometimes food. Shay told BW that's because because the homeless under the bridge next to the road are more visible than homeless piled into Corpus Christi.

"People roll up with hot coffee and blankets. And everything goes. Most of them stop here. It's easy for them because they see us here," she said.

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Friday, November 7, 2014

'Walk a Mile in My Shoes' - Community Rallies to Support Homelessness Awareness

Posted By on Fri, Nov 7, 2014 at 9:56 AM

The morning dew blanketing Julia Davis Park just outside the gates of Zoo Boise soaked through their sneakers, but members of the community carrying signs that read "Housing is a Human Right" and "Last Year's Winter Low Temp. -5 Degrees" gathered there this morning to raise awareness for homelessness.

This year marked the second annual Walk a Mile in My Shoes march, and about 45 people showed up at Zoo Boise to march to the Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial and back, where goods and services providers to the homeless had set up booths to educate people about homelessness in the Treasure Valley and the resources available to them.

Homelessness has become a hot-button issue in Boise. In 2013, the Boise City Council passed the so-called Civil Sidewalks Ordinance, which criminalized "aggressive panhandling." Critics derided it as a ham-handed way to flush homeless people out of downtown, and ACLU-Idaho successfully challenged the ordinance on Constitutional grounds.

But since then, anxiety has run high about and within the homeless community. This summer, while Corpus Christi Day Shelter closed for renovation, a homeless camp sprouted under the I-84 overpass near Rhoads Skatepark, and the City Council again took up the issue of homelessness by passing changes to its public camping ordinance.

Oct. 28, a man was found beaten to death near the camp, rattling the community there.
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Thursday, November 6, 2014

Homeless Coalition Rallies Treasure Valley to 'Walk a Mile In My Shoes' Friday

Posted By on Thu, Nov 6, 2014 at 1:49 PM

For the second year in a row, the Boise/Ada County Homeless Coalition is asking Boiseans to help raise awareness about homelessness by taking a stroll. 

The Walk a Mile in My Shoes event, of which Boise Weekly is a sponsor, is a one-mile walk that takes place Friday, Nov. 7, at 8 a.m., beginning at the entrance to Zoo Boise in Julia Davis Park. Participants will follow the Greenbelt through the Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial and end back at Zoo Boise, where coffee from Dutch Bros. will be served. 

There, providers of services to the homeless will be on hand to talk about homelessness in the Boise community and the goods and services they provide.

Attendees can register online or in person until 7:45 a.m. Friday, Nov. 7.

Boise Weekly has followed the public debate about homelessness in the Boise community. In 2013, the Boise City Council passed an ordinance targeting what it called "aggressive panhandling," which the American Civil Liberties Union successfully challenged on Constitutional grounds. And Oct. 28, a man was found beaten to death near the I-84 overpass, where many of the city's homeless have congregated.
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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Boise Homeless Advocates: 'Housing, Not Handcuffs'

Posted By on Sun, Oct 12, 2014 at 10:45 AM

At the height of this summer's swelter, Boise Weekly chronicled how a number of the city's homeless were spending many of their days under the overpass near Rhodes Parks on Americana Boulevard, in the shadow of the Boise Connector.

BW spoke to a number of the men and women without a home who had also been issued warnings and citations for violating the city's so-called anti-camping ordinance.

"Listen to me: You can't be punished for doing a normal human thing, such as sleeping, in the city of Boise," attorney Howard Belodoff told an under-the-bridge gathering in August. "You need to fight these tickets. You need to defend yourselves. You need to make sure to plead not guilty, I repeat not guilty, ask for a public defender and ask for a jury trial."

But as the heat has given way to fall's cool days and nights, the numbers continue to grow.

On the morning of Sunday, Oct. 12, advocates for the homeless were out in force to again say that "Boise City is criminalizing homelessness," and warned city officials that the anti-camping ordinance violates citizens' constitutional rights.

In an open letter to the Boise City Council on Sept. 23, the ACLU of Idaho wrote that it hoped "this will be the last letter the ACLU of Idaho must write you on this subject," but accused city officials of a "persistent push to punish vulnerable families and put veterans and people with disabilities in jail just because of their poverty."

Organizers called Sunday's rally "Housing, Not Handcuffs."

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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Corpus Christi Reopens Amid 'Homelessness Crisis'

Posted By on Wed, Oct 1, 2014 at 12:46 PM

Boiseans traveling Americana Boulevard have noticed that the number of people under the overpass near the Corpus Christi day shelter has grown dramatically over the summer and in these first days of autumn. At the Oct. 1 Boise/Ada County Homeless Coalition, the situation was described by one member as a "homelessness crisis."

Simply put, it's a crisis that consists of more homeless who need goods and services from stressed organizations designed to service them. According to Corpus Christi House Education Director Lisa Veaudry, between 30 and 50 people have set up permanent camp under the overpass near Rhodes Skate Park and in nearby Cooper Court.
A volunteer conducts a tour of Corpus Christi House - HARRISON BERRY
  • Harrison Berry
  • A volunteer conducts a tour of Corpus Christi House

"It's a neighborhood," she said.

So it was opportune that ACLU Legal Director Ritchie Eppink, guest speaker at the meeting, discussed a string those organizations can pull to influence how Housing and Urban Development funds can be directed to potential solutions to the city's growing homelessness problem: Consolidated Planning and its citizen participation component

"It's a string, and at the other end of that string are funds—and policy," Eppink said.

Boise's consolidated plan is a City Council-approved set of objectives and methods for distributing Housing and Urban Development funds made available to major cities across all 50 states totaling billions of dollars, and public participation, including policy recommendations, is required for those funds to be disbursed to cities and states. (In 2009, Texas was denied some HUD funds for failing to document or meet those public participation standards. Read Gov. Rick Perry's response here.)

"The point is, we can participate. And, in fact, government is designed for us to participate," said CATCH Executive Director Greg Morris.

Following the coalition meeting, attendees were invited to tour the reopened Corpus Christi House that closed for improvements for much of the summer. Contractors had removed two walls from the building and conducted electrical upgrades, but the day shelter's closure drew public attention to Boise's homelessness problem when they began to loiter and camp nearby. Though the shelter has reopened, many continue to camp in Cooper Court and under the bridge.

The public is invited to an open House for Corpus Christi Wednesday, Oct. 8, from 5-7 p.m. to see what changes have been made to the day shelter and enjoy refreshments. 
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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

City Council, With ACHD Commissioners, Hears From Bike Lane Stakeholders, Passes Anti-Camping Ordinance Amendment

Posted By on Tue, Sep 23, 2014 at 3:05 PM

The Boise City Council and the Ada County Highway District Board of Commissioners met Sept. 23 during a rare joint meeting to discuss a proposal from the bike lane stakeholders group. - HARRISON BERRY
  • Harrison Berry
  • The Boise City Council and the Ada County Highway District Board of Commissioners met Sept. 23 during a rare joint meeting to discuss a proposal from the bike lane stakeholders group.

The Boise City Council and the Ada County Highway District Board of Commissioners heard from a group of stakeholders for Boise's bike lane project at a meeting the afternoon of Tuesday, Sept. 23. The stakeholder group proposed an ambitious plan for lanes along Capitol Boulevard that would be part of a still more ambitious plan to connect existing bicycle arteries in the downtown core to Boise State University, West Boise and beyond.

The proposal may eventually place buffered (painted) or protected (with vertical physical barriers between bikes and car traffic) lanes along Americana and Capitol boulevards, on the Broadway Bridge and Front Street, as well as dedicated lanes on other streets and "sharrows"—painted indications that motorists must share the road with cyclists.

But the aspect of the proposal that the stakeholders had most fleshed out was for Capitol Boulevard that includes a mixture of painted bike lanes or physically buffered lanes from Boise State all the way to the Capitol Building.

Though hashing over the Capitol Boulevard plan took up the bulk of the city council and ACHD's time, the achievement of the meeting was a consensus between ACHD and the City of Boise on enforcement of bike lane rules and the necessity for bicycle and motorist education to reduce frictions between the two primary users of Boise's roadways.

"We all need education for how to use any new structure we put in place," said ACHD Deputy Director of Planning and Projects Dave Wallace.

Referring to an ACHD poll that generated massive participation from motorists and cyclists alike during the controversial bike lane pilot project and found that many cyclists were using the lanes incorrectly or preferring to ride on city sidewalks, ACHD Commissioner Sarah Baker said that if the commissioners were going to sign off on a permanent set of bike lanes for downtown Boise, Boiseans would have to use those lanes correctly, and the city would have to create and enforce rules governing cyclists' lane use.

"What we got out of those comments is the unpredictability of bike riders. The rules need to come in as well," Baker said.

But city officials have long worried that the bike lane pilot project didn't last long enough for cyclists to learn and accustom themselves to bike lane rules. Boise City Council member Elaine Clegg countered Baker, saying that better bike lane use will come when bike lanes are installed.

"I think we're seeing a lot of bad behavior because there aren't a lot of good choices," she said.

City Council member Lauren McLean agreed.

"Once you paint and stripe an area, it won't be hard to get people to change their patterns," she said.

The Boise City Council also briefly discussed a proposed amendment to its anti-camping ordinance, which critics say targets the homeless. The ordinance was passed in a 5-1 vote, with the dissenting vote coming from Lauren McLean. It will prohibit police from enforcing the existing anti-camping law in the event that there is no room in an overnight shelter and the person sleeping or camping in a public space. Police may enforce the anti-camping ordinance if there is room in a shelter but has been removed because of unruly behavior, or is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. 

"[The homeless who are mentally ill or on drugs] are truly the most vulnerable," McLean said. "I have deep concerns."

Elaine Clegg and T.J. Thompson both said that the conversation about homelessness in Boise is ongoing, but that the amendment was a step in the right direction.

"There are solutions, but in our situation, we do need to re-engage this conversation on a very deep level. We're trying," Clegg said.

"It's not changing what we're doing now. We have a lot to do," Thompson said of the amendment. 
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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Video: Couple, Dog Rescued From Garbage Truck

Posted By on Tue, Mar 11, 2014 at 12:55 PM

  • Screenshot: KREM-TV

Being homeless was tough enough, but a Spokane couple survived after literally being thrown into a garbage truck early this morning.

KREM-TV is reporting that the couple, along with their dog, had been sleeping in a dumpster, but all three were tossed inside a garbage truck when the dumpster was emptied around 7 a.m. in downtown Spokane. The garbage truck driver heard some noise from the back of the truck and noticed some boxes being moved around. That's when he called for help.

The couple was taken to a Spokane hospital, but according to officials, they suffered only minor bruises and no major injuries. The condition of the dog was not immediately known.

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