Interfaith Sanctuary is shaking up its plan for an expanded emergency shelter on State Street after heavy opposition from the neighborhood.
In the new proposal, Interfaith Sanctuary will lower the number of beds in the shelter from 278 to roughly 200. The altered design will include fewer overnight emergency beds and will instead have more individual rooms for guests who meet employment, sobriety, and behavior requirements while they wait for a housing unit they can afford. An architecture firm is drawing up the revised plans.
‘They’ve done the work’
Interfaith Sanctuary Executive Director Jodi Peterson-Stigers said the organization made the changes to the plan after nearby neighbors and the Veterans Park Neighborhood Association expressed concern about impact to the nearby residential area. She said a Housing First model, where all of her guests could immediately move into affordable housing instead of living in shelter for long periods of time, is ideal, but it doesn’t work right now while the housing market has extremely low vacancy levels.
“We think that this shift recognizes the conversations we’ve had with the neighborhood and also recognizes the need for our guests who are stuck in their homelessness not by fault of their own,” Peterson-Stigers said. “They’ve done the work. They have proven their desire to be independent and in housing of their own and we are struggling to make that happen for them.”
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The new design will has a total of 94 beds for families with children, 22 beds in a medical dorm for residents in need of health or hospice care, 40 “incentive beds,” 20 single and double rooms and 24 overnight shelter beds. Overnight shelter beds will be in open dormitory-style rooms common at many homeless shelters, but “incentive beds” will allow residents who meet certain requirements and are participating in substance abuse or mental health programming to have a more permanent space with a desk so they can store some of their belongings more permanently.
Will people still want housing?
The 20 single and double rooms for guests will include a door and a lock, but provide no other amenities like a private bathroom, kitchen or other things provided in an apartment. Interfaith will not charge guests in those rooms rent, like the rest of the shelter, and having these rooms requires guests to maintain sobriety.
When asked if the rooms will incentivize guests to stay and not look for their own housing, Peterson-Stigers said guests in those rooms will still be required to abide by Interfaith Sanctuary’s curfew, severely limit their belongings, do chores, and continue to report their work schedules and other items to staff. Guests who would be able to stay in these rooms would have already demonstrated they are working toward a place of their own.
She said this would create an opportunity to help guests build life skills necessary to help them move into an apartment of their own, or with a roommate, and will help encourage property managers to consider renting to them.
“What we’re going to do is work with partnerships with property managers and agencies to say ‘these guests are vetted, man’,” she said. “They will be great tenants for you and we can create some relationships because they’ve gone through our university of being a good renter.”
Shelter buyer revealed
Peterson-Stigers also identified the buyer of the River Street shelter after weeks of declining to identify the buyer. She said Miller Family Holdings LLC closed on the shelter on March 22. Ada County does not currently show the transfer. Peterson-Stigers did not disclose the sale price.
State of Idaho business filings show Mark J. Miller controls Miller Family Holdings LLC. The firm is a private equity investment firm based in Portland. He is also the Chairman of the Board of Idaho First Bank and is the CEO of Signature Northwest LLC, which operates a grocery chain in the Portland area. His father is Robert Miller, former CEO of Albertsons Companies. Incorporation documents for the company list both Robert and Mark.
Mark J. Miller could not be reached for comment on this article about his intentions for the property.
Changes to emergency accommodations
The change in design means there will be fewer emergency beds open to anyone who needs a place to stay. To compensate, Peterson-Stigers said Interfaith Sanctuary has changed up its plan and will allow anyone who comes in need of shelter to sleep in the day shelter area overnight on a floor mat. This is similar to Boise Rescue Mission’s current policy.
Currently, if Interfaith staff encounters a behavior issue, they ask the guest to leave for another shelter. Peterson-Stigers says the new procedure would move the guest from a bed to a floor mat, and staff will encourage them to participate in programming the next day with a social worker. If the behavior issue involves violence, staff would call Boise Police to the shelter.
Unlike the current shelter, Interfaith will not require guests to leave each day after completing morning chores. The new facility would also include a day shelter with computers, an outdoor area with picnic tables, and a garden and case management.
Peterson-Stigers said they would only serve guests staying at the shelter and Corpus Christi Day Shelter, on River Street, would remain open to serve the unsheltered homeless population and those who live at Boise Rescue Mission. She said creating another day shelter will relieve the pressure on Corpus Christi and give both locations more room to serve those in need.
Before the pandemic, people from Interfaith Sanctuary, Boise Rescue Mission, and other locations packed Corpus Christi House. The inside and outside areas got so full that few seats remained, and the crowd in the facility made it difficult to move through the room at times.
‘Eye-opening’ meetings with neighbors
Interfaith Sanctuary held several tense meetings with neighbors and interested community meetings since the organization announced the project in January. Peterson-Stigers announced in February the organization would delay the project by a month to allow for more meetings with the neighbors and build a compromise.
She said one-on-one meetings with neighbors were more productive and helped create a project the community was more comfortable with. Peterson-Stigers said she visited the homes of some nearby neighbors and biked the neighborhood with some of them to see the area from a new perspective, which she called “eye-opening.”
“When we got past the outright opposition and met with the people who wanted to have conversations, but they were unsure how it would work that’s where we began to work as a team and come up with something that would matter for our whole neighborhood,” Peterson-Stigers said. “That’s where we got the compassionate and great ideas that not just work for our shelter, but also for that neighborhood.”