Interfaith Sanctuary director ‘fine’ with move as Boise mayor halts new homeless shelter

·3 min read

The Interfaith Sanctuary homeless-shelter relocation will be put on hold, Boise Mayor Lauren McLean says.

The project was intended to move the shelter from its current downtown location to a former Salvation Army thrift store in the Veterans Park neighborhood at 4306 W. State St.

A new city task force now will evaluate locations over the next eight weeks, McLean announced in a press release Thursday.

McLean met with Jodi Peterson, executive director of Interfaith, on Thursday morning. She requested that Peterson pause the application for a conditional use permit on the State Street building that was submitted to the Planning and Zoning Commission on April 27. According to the release, they “came to the decision” to put the move on hold.

Peterson told the Idaho Statesman that she was “fine” with the request.

“My thoughts are: whatever it takes,” Peterson said. “We want to do the best shelter possible and we want to make it so it works for our guests and neighbors. So if there’s extra steps needed, we’re happy to take those steps.”

Residents near Veterans Park had protested the move and spoken out against it during neighborhood open house discussions with McLean. The Veterans Park Neighborhood Association also collected donations to hire lawyers and “other professional advisers” to oppose the project at the city level, the Statesman reported in April. McLean disagreed with the “tone and tenor” of those discussions.

“Rather than focus on the work of the partnership and the challenges before us, the attention was on the proposed location of Interfaith Sanctuary,” McLean said in a news release. “The nature of the discussions around the project are not representative of who we are as Boiseans.”

Peterson said she’d also like to see a shift in tone when it comes to shelter discussions.

“For the sake of people without a home, having to manage that kind of messaging has been difficult,” Peterson said. “I think maybe building in more time will help with that tone changing. It definitely needs to change, though.”

The new task force will assess the city’s shelter needs over the next eight weeks and evaluate potential locations for Interfaith, according to McLean’s press release. It will be made up of Our Path Home partners, a Boise City Council member, health providers, residents who have experienced homelessness and neighborhood leaders.

“As we move through the process of the shelter needs analysis and ultimately identifying the right location for a new emergency shelter, I ask that we center conversations around our values of compassion, community and service,” McLean said in the release.

The Veterans Park location still will be considered, McLean said. Katy Decker, president of the Veterans Park Neighborhood Association, told the Statesman that she was “excited to hear about” the pause.

“I think this is a step in the right direction to actually do a thorough evaluation of the sites and consider multiple locations,” Decker said.

She is “strongly hoping there will be neighborhood representation on the panel.” The mayor’s office reached out to Decker and two other neighborhood association presidents to meet with McLean on Friday morning to “share some updates.” Decker said she hopes the mayor will extend an offer to her and others to be on the task force.

Decker said she was surprised at the mayor’s comments about the Veterans Park neighborhood discussions. Decker said she thought the majority of attendees were respectful.

“But when you have 10% of the responses coming from a ruder place, that tends to be heard more loudly,” Decker said.

Peterson told the Statesman in April that the planned shelter would serve roughly 200 people. The current River Street location serves 140. Plans for the relocation space included individual rooms with cribs, supportive beds for seniors and those with medical needs, emergency beds, and private rooms for guests who “are sustained, employed and on housing lists, but stuck because there is no housing available.”

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