After more than a decade of court battles, the City of Boise moved quickly to pay out a $1.3 million settlement to address homelessness.
On March 8, the executive committee of Our Path Home, a public-private partnership to address homelessness in Ada County, awarded Interfaith Sanctuary and the Boise City Ada County Housing Authority grants to support current programs. These funds are part of a settlement agreement reached earlier this year in the long-running case Martin v. Boise over the city’s ordinance that once issued tickets to anyone sleeping on the streets.
The agreement requires the city not to ticket people experiencing homelessness for sleeping on the street when there is no shelter available and payout the funds to address homelessness, with one-third dedicated to “rehabilitating or creating additional overnight shelter space.”
The Our Path Home Executive Committee made the decision on who received the funds in an open meeting of the Our Path Home Executive Committee on March 8 after nine nonprofits wrote grants requesting funds. Interfaith Sanctuary and BCACHA are on the Our Path Home committee, but because they were applicants for the funds they did not participate in the discussion or the vote, according to Our Path Home Administrator Maureen Brewer.
No funds for State Street shelter proposal
The committee awarded Interfaith Sanctuary $440,550 and BCACHA $894,450.
Interfaith Sanctuary will use the funds to continue its ongoing operations, which expanded to four locations during COVID-19 and grew its workforce from 21 to 39 to keep up with service demand. Over the past year it, ran its emergency shelter on River Street, a new day shelter on-site with meal service and at a separate building nearby for a few months. In 2020 it also added a hotel for people experiencing homelessness who tested positive for COVID-19 and another hotel to house families with children, seniors and those with medical conditions can stay to keep them out of dorm-style accommodations where the virus can quickly spread.
These funds and additional staff are covered by the CARES Act, but Interfaith Sanctuary Executive Director Jodi Peterson-Stigers said getting this grant from the settlement will help continue these operations longer. It will not go toward its proposal to build a larger shelter on State Street.
She said this is a big boost to the organization after Interfaith Sanctuary canceled its major fundraising events due to the ongoing pandemic, in a time when it need support the most.
“This funding allows you to pay for salaries, food and transportation,” Peterson-Stigers said. “It’s basically how we shelter more people in this time and make sure we have everything we need. This funding can help us with that.”
Adding supportive housing units
The bulk of the funds will go to BCACHA to increase the number of permanent supportive housing units available to the community. Currently, the housing authority provides housing units throughout the county through private landlords. These units include wraparound social services and rental assistance to help people transition out of homelessness. The number of units fluctuates year-to-year depending on the number of landlords participating, the size of families and other factors, but it is currently around 80.
Brewer said it’s not set in stone exactly how these funds will be used by BCACHA, but the goal is to try and bring more units online to expand services. The grant application submitted by the housing authority said the money could be used to expand a landlord incentive program to get more landlords interested in participating, secure dedicated units in the community for these tenants and expand services to more households at a time.
“Units is our biggest challenge right now,” she said, describing the committee’s decision. “We have people who need permanent supportive housing, but were challenged by the units available on that market.”
These funds could also possibly be used to cover the cost of providing wraparound social services at New Path Community Housing, which is a permanent supportive housing project on Fairview Avenue. Ada County currently covers the cost of those services year to year, but the grant from the settlement could cover that if the funding was withdrawn.
Who else applied?
Applicants not selected for funding include Astegos.org, Catholic Charities of Idaho, Corpus Christi House, Intermountain Fair Housing Council, International Rescue Committee, Pathways Crisis Center and Terry Reilly Health Services.
Astegos requested the entire $1.335 million settlement to purchase a hotel and turn it into a combination emergency shelter and long-term supportive housing project with on-site meals and case management. Astegos Executive Director Tim Flaherty wrote in his grant he estimates the entire project would cost $4 million and have an annual operating budget of $1.6 million, but it has not yet found a hotel to purchase for the project.
Brewer said Astegos’ proposal did not qualify for the grant because it is not a partner with Our Path Home, which was a requirement, and the committee wanted the grant to fund ongoing initiatives instead of proposals.
“Our Path Home picked projects that are shovel ready, augmenting the current level of services and with providers that have experience,” she said.
Flaherty said he had looked at a couple of sites for the past year, but none of them are currently on the market. The bulk of Astegos’ work is focused on street outreach and this would be a significant scale-up in operations for the organization. Flaherty said they currently run a small supportive housing program in Caldwell with 12 beds. It requires participants to pay a one-time $250 maintenance fee to reserve a bed and a monthly $500 fee to maintain enrollment.
“I am hopeful that there is still potential out there for us to do our project and we’re hopeful that we’re going to be able to pull it off,” Flaherty said.
Intermountain Fair Housing Council proposed using $210,000 to launch a pilot program to offer legal support to the homeless community and those at risk of losing their homes. It would include adding more legal resources for the homeless community, interceding in formally or informally in eviction proceedings and referrals of their clients to other Our Path Home partners to find their clients housing. This would include bringing on two full-time attorneys who specialize in housing law.
IFHC Executive Director Zoe Ann Olson said she is happy for the organizations who recieved funding from the grant, but she hopes the city will prioritize legal council for those who are homeless or at risk of losing their housing in the future.
“In the future, IFHC hopes our State, communities, and businesses will fund truly affordable housing, help buildgenerational wealth among all community members, pass source of income protection for renters, as Matthew Desmond recommended in his book Evicted, provide support for legal assistancefor tenants experiencing eviction and legal assistance to help IFHC address the growing number of discrimination caseslocally and statewide,” she wrote in an email.
Corpus Christi House, a day shelter for those experiencing homelessness, applied for funds to provide additional computers, additional long-term storage for the homeless community to use for their personal belongings and industrial grade washers and dryers. Chad Summervill, with Corpus Christi House, said they applied but aren’t terribly disappointed they weren’t selected.
“We want to make sure the money goes to the right purposes and we of course wanted to put our needs out there and say ‘if this money aligns to what we do, we would be willing to be good stewards of those funds’,” he said. “If it doesn’t match, then that’s fine.”
Terry Reilly Health Services applied for $574,000 to continue funding another year of their supportive health services for New Path Community Housing, which is not guaranteed to continue after October of this year. These funds could be covered by the funds allocated to BCACHA, if necessary.
Catholic Charities of Idaho requested $38,000 to be used for rental assistance to help homeless families with first and last month’s rent to get them into housing and to help cover the costs of case management to support clients.
International Rescue Committee, which supports refugees resettled in Ada County, requested $225,000 to expand its housing program to serve anyone experiencing homelessness not just refugees. It would include funds to hire a full time housing specialist to run the program, funds for rental assistance to help clients get into units and other administrative costs.
Pathways Community Crisis Center, a 24/7 center for adults experiencing crises related to mental health, substance abuse, housing or homelessness, applied for $100,000 to help it continue to operate at full capacity. The center’s grant application said the Idaho Legislature cut its budget by 50% in July and they are searching for alternative funding to keep it’s services operating at full capacity.