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Interfaith Sanctuary eyes former Salvation Army building for expansion

Interfaith Sanctuary is dreaming of a new home on State Street.

The emergency homeless shelter has long been located in a 10,000 square foot warehouse on River Street, but they are now in the process of acquiring a former Salvation Army building at 4308 W State Street for an expansion. This building, which is over triple the size, would double the organization’s ability to serve Boiseans experiencing homelessness, Executive Director Jodi Peterson said.

[Homelessness on wheels: Boise Police, social workers launch new initiative for those living in vehicles in downtown Boise]

It is across the street from Valor Pointe, the city’s permanent supportive housing project for veterans that opened in September.

The sale is not expected to close until the end of March and is still in progress, but Peterson said she is already planning for a neighborhood meeting to hear from nearby residents to talk about the project.

“My whole ambition is to find a welcoming neighborhood that they feel like they’re a part of this and they’re actually part of the solution because of their welcoming nature,” she said.

A new way of doing business

If they go forward, this shelter would operate in a completely different way than the current facility. It would be completely secured and there would be no alley, like Cooper Court, outside the shelter where residents are spending time during the day while they wait to be let back in for the night. She described the building as “very secure.”

It would also include a variety of different sleeping arrangements aside from the traditional emergency housing with rows and rows of bunk beds. Peterson said they hope to create a whole floor for housing elderly members of the homeless community in need of medical care as well as dorms with more privacy for employed residents who are working full time but who cannot find housing they can afford in Boise.

She said the push toward this model was inspired by the pandemic after they saw the success of moving families with children and high-risk guests into hotel rooms to isolate them from the virus. This helped those guests progress further into stability by giving them a secure place to store their things and work on their own sobriety and mental health.

“The emergency shelter takes into consideration that we have many employed guests for a lack of housing, not for a lack of trying, so we’ve created incentive housing which gives them more privacy with a desk and a place to keep some of their things so there’s a way to stay motivated while you’re stuck in the system,” she said.

All-in-one services

Before the pandemic, guests at Interfaith Sanctuary would leave the building every day and spend time out in the city, at the Corpus Christi Day Shelter or go to Boise Rescue Mission for meals. But as the pandemic worsened, Peterson said Interfaith Sanctuary started growing its programs to provide three meals a day, day shelter programming and more help for those in need.

She said moving the shelter up to State Street will not disrupt the flow of assistance because it will just keep all of the services under one roof in its secure area. Boise Rescue Mission’s two shelters, which house more guests than Interfaith Sanctuary, will continue to operate in downtown Boise.

Peterson hopes having a second day shelter at a newly expanded Interfaith Sanctuary would help reduce the crowds at Corpus Christi House and make services more comfortable for everyone.

“Quite honestly, what we’ve learned is that Corpus (Christi House) isn’t big enough to handle what is now our daytime homeless population because we’re serving about 180 people a day at the warming shelter and pandemic or not Corpus (Christi House) wouldn’t have been able to accommodate that,” Peterson said. “I think that what we’re doing is creating more space for people to be able to be served without being overcrowded or pushed out.”

Peterson said they are also hoping for a full teaching kitchen for their training program for guests and a dedicated dining room, which the current shelter does not have. It’s all preliminary though, and she is hoping it will be supported by the community.

“We want people to see there is a better way to do this work,” she said.

Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev senior reporter
Margaret Carmel is a BoiseDev reporter focused on the City of Boise, housing, homelessness and growth. Contact her at [email protected] or by phone at (757)705-8066.

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