City Club Speaker Rips Boise 'Anti Camping' Law, Says 'We Are All Complicit' 

click to enlarge Sara Rankin - SEATTLE UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW
It took City Club of Boise Board President Richard Newman no time Thursday afternoon to bring up the results from Tuesday night's historic/controversial election.

In opening a City Club forum on homelessness Nov. 10, Newman reminded the gathering at the Grove Hotel that the approximate 220,000-vote nationwide split between supporters of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton was "just a little bigger than the city of Boise."

Newman's primary task, however, was to introduce Sara Rankin, professor at the Seattle University school of law and director of the university's Homeless Rights Advocacy Project. Rankin is no stranger to Boise, having attended Highlands Elementary, North Junior High and Boise High School before going off to law school and ultimately teaching at Seattle University.

"Seattle has been my home for the past several years, but Boise is my 'home' home," said Rankin. "Home is a sacred place to belong. Yet our laws increasingly prevent many poor people to belong anywhere."

With that, Rankin began a fast-paced hour of deconstructing the increasing number of ordinances in U.S. cities that, she said, make being homeless a crime.

"Regardless of our good intentions and the very hard work from some, we are all complicit," she said.

In particular, Rankin pointed to the Boise "anti-camping" ordinance, which has faced several legal challenges and was amended by the city to make it enforceable only when local homeless shelters have room to spare.

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"But it's still a bad law," said Rankin. "I'm worried about such language in a law that allows a shelter to say they wouldn't turn anyone away, but they have people in their shelter four-deep. That is simply not a reasonable offer from a shelter."

Rankin urged Boiseans to pursue multiple options to combat homelessness, including the so-called "housing first" model already promoted by the city and/or the creation of tiny homes.

"I learned that you actually have some already-built tiny homes sitting in the back of Interfaith Sanctuary, yet you're not allowed to use them because of Boise's zoning ordinance," said Rankin. "That shouldn't be happening. It's unacceptable."

Near the end of the hour, forum moderator Bill Manny brought the conversation back to the Nov. 8 election, saying, "Our president-elect hasn't said anything about homelessness."

"Oh... no," said Rankin. "I'm setting aside my own personal drama on that right now, which is extraordinary."
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