‘We’re just overwhelmed’: Boise homelessness services ask for help as numbers surge

·4 min read

Interfaith Sanctuary has never seen such a high number of people experiencing homelessness looking for shelter as it has in recent weeks.

Interfaith, one of the area’s largest homeless shelters, has run out of beds for the amount of people showing up at its doors. There are people sleeping in tents behind the sanctuary on River Street, huddled up in heated tents for the night.

“These are new faces,” Interfaith executive director Jodi Peterson told the Idaho Statesman.

As cold weather has swept into the Treasure Valley, local homeless services are seeing the true effect of COVID-19 and rising housing prices in the Boise area.

CATCH, a Boise-based non-profit that helps rehouse families and make them self-sufficient, has recorded at least 500 Treasure Valley families that are experiencing homelessness with at least 100 of those living in their cars.

But as the temperatures outside lower, the political climate around homelessness in the Treasure Valley is starting to rise.

Homeless Idahoans erected tents outside the Idaho Capitol building last week to protest and draw attention to housing issues and could soon be embroiled in a court case against the Idaho State Police. Interfaith was also recently denied a permit application for a new sanctuary by the Boise Planning and Zoning Commission.

“We are at a pivotal moment,” CATCH Director of Development Garrett Kalt said.

A few guests of Interfaith Sanctuary spend the early afternoon inside a large, heated tent on the Interfaith Sanctuary property on Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022. Over the weekend the shelter reached its capacity and is now temporarily allowing some unhoused clients to stay overnight in sleeping bags inside the heated tent.
A few guests of Interfaith Sanctuary spend the early afternoon inside a large, heated tent on the Interfaith Sanctuary property on Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022. Over the weekend the shelter reached its capacity and is now temporarily allowing some unhoused clients to stay overnight in sleeping bags inside the heated tent.

The CATCH-22 campaign

Those familiar with the 1961 war novel Catch-22 by Joseph Heller will be aware what the phrase ‘Catch-22’ means: A situation or dilemma in which there is no escape because of two contradictory situations.

CATCH is turning that negative phrase into a positive force in 2022. The organization is looking to house 22 families in 2022 by securing $22 monthly donations from the community.

“Our clients, they’re some of our most vulnerable community members,” Kalt said. “And they have to make decisions every day regarding their basic needs. And some will be unmet.”

It’ll take 625 community members to make that dream a reality. Over the course of the year that means each person would pay $264 and it takes $7,500 for CATCH to house one family and help them get on their feet.

That $7,500 cost encompasses the deposit on a new home, monthly utilities and rent for about seven months before a family becomes financially independent.

People looking to help out through the CATCH-22 campaign can do so via CATCH’s website, catchidaho.org.

“Now is the time”

Local homeless services are desperately looking for assistance from the community to help ease the stress on shelters and other non-profit organizations as homeless rates continue to climb in the valley.

“Any way that you want to get involved and engage as an advocate, as a volunteer, as a donor, now is the time,” Peterson said. “We’ve never needed the help more than we need it right now.”

The Treasure Valley offers a host of different homeless services aside from Interfaith and CATCH. Corpus Christi House is another large homeless shelter while St. Vincent de Paul and Salvation Army are two of several food pantries in the area.

Treasure Valley residents can help in more ways than just donating money.

Interfaith is currently looking for a “band-aid” solution to their bed shortage, Peterson said, and is asking for people to donate sleeping bags and army cots. She is also asking for people to support the organization in its fight to open a new 205-bed shelter at 4306 W State St. to replace its aging location at 1620 W River St.

The City of Boise Planning and Zoning Committee hears testimony Monday, Nov. 15, 2021 before voting on a proposed homeless shelter proposed for the vacant Salvation Army facility on State Street.
The City of Boise Planning and Zoning Committee hears testimony Monday, Nov. 15, 2021 before voting on a proposed homeless shelter proposed for the vacant Salvation Army facility on State Street.

“I think it’s really understanding and appreciating that we are dealing with a growing need and we don’t have enough bandwidth in our community to manage it,” Peterson said. “I think the more people that become educated and pull themselves with us, the better it will be for all of us.”

Both CATCH and Interfaith work with Our Path Home, which has nearly 50 partner agencies, to provide homelessness prevention services in the Treasure Valley.

Kalt recommends reaching out to a number of the agencies listed on Our Path Home’s website to find out how best you could help. Outside of donations of food, clothing and bedding, Peterson said that there are many shelters that could use help with staffing through the daytime.

“We really are trying to rapidly come up with solutions,” Peterson said. “It’s just overwhelming. We’re just overwhelmed.”

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