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Ada Co. shifts chronic homelessness funding, City of Boise will fill the gap

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Supportive services are staying another year at New Path Community Housing, but with a different funding source. 

The City of Boise will be stepping in with American Rescue Plan funding to cover the $375,000 required to fully fund Terry Reilly Health Services supportive services for the nearly 50 residents of New Path, according to a memo obtained by BoiseDev in a public records request. The program, which came online at the end of 2018, is a Housing First project to house Ada County’s most chronically homeless residents regardless of sobriety, mental health issues, or other barriers.

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It was set up as a partnership between multiple agencies, with the City of Boise helping pay for the construction of the building, the Boise City Ada County Housing Authority providing housing choice vouchers for residents to get subsidized rent, and a combination of funding from the Treasure Valley’s two major hospital systems and Ada County covering the cost of on-site supportive services for residents. 

Ada County aiming for the ‘greater good’

Earlier this year, the Ada County Commissioners unanimously opted to reduce its share of the funding to pay for the supportive services provided by Terry Reilly Health Services for the over 40 residents of New Path Community Housing from $312,000 down to $200,000. The commissioners were skeptical of the price tag for the program and the efficacy of the Housing First model, which provides stable housing to Ada County’s most chronically homeless residents regardless of sobriety, mental health issues, or other limiting factors. 

The three-member Ada County Board of Commissioners, made up of two Republicans and one Democrat, opted in recent weeks to use the $200,000 in its budget for New Path toward Terry Reilly in general, instead of the specific individuals in the Housing First program. Democrat Commissioner Kendra Kenyon floated the idea in a meeting earlier this summer to discuss New Path and homelessness in general with Boise Rescue Mission CEO Bill Roscoe. 

“The board feels it would be beneficial to more individuals and families to enhance services for the greater homeless community,” Ada County spokesperson Elizabeth Duncan told BoiseDev in an email. “Greater good can be achieved this way instead of simply focusing on the 40 individuals in New Path.”

The commissioners held a meeting with the leadership of Terry Reilly Health Services in October to discuss potential ideas for how the county could use these funds to improve services to the homeless community and the extremely low-income, but no specific proposal has been developed yet.

Hospitals chipping in a little more

Duncan also noted that Ada County requested Saint Alphonsus and St. Luke’s health systems each double their contribution to the project to $200,000 total. St. Luke’s spokesperson Christine Myron said the hospital contributed a little bit more to the project but didn’t fully double it as the county requested.

“For now, St. Luke’s has renewed an annual commitment to fund Terry Reilly’s supportive services provided at New Path at the $120,000 level,” she wrote in an email. “We have let the County know we are interested in learning more about potential funding opportunities to support additional behavioral health services. Because we didn’t receive a request from Terry Reilly, we couldn’t commit to funding them at the County’s suggested $200,000 level.” 

Saint Alphonsus spokesperson Mark Snider said the smaller hospital system made the same decision.

“Since the contract to provide services has transferred from Ada County to the city of Boise, we will continue to support New Path by contributing $120,000 per year,” he wrote in an email. “We also look forward to opportunities to continue to partner with Ada County to address critical community needs as we deliver on our vision to be a transforming healing presence in the communities we serve.”

Boise backs Housing First

The City of Boise has long been supportive of the Housing First model of addressing chronic homelessness. 

In the internal September 16th memo from Housing and Community Development Director Maureen Brewer to Boise City Council and Mayor Lauren Mclean, Brewer touted the results of two years worth of studies on the impact of New Path from Boise State University’s Idaho Policy Institute. Both years, the center’s analysis found New Path resulted in over a million in savings for the community as a whole due to residents of the building interacting less with the criminal justice system, fewer visits to the emergency room, and not taking up beds in Boise’s homeless shelter system. 

The funding to cover the supportive services at the project will be covered by a specific subset of American Rescue Plan funds given out to localities that receive HOME funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. 

“To ensure New Path and other like projects are positioned to achieve the outcomes and benefits a Housing First approach achieves on behalf of communities that progressively implement the model, the cost of housing (i.e., rental assistance) and the support services must be accounted for,” Graybeal told BoiseDev in an email. 

The agreement between Terry Reilly and the City of Boise is not complete yet, but Graybeal said there would not be a lapse in services for the residents even though the fiscal year changed on October 1. 

What about the long term?

Brewer’s memo noted that because the funding for New Path’s supportive services is made by multiple partners making annual commitments, it results in “uncertainty and risk.” In the future, Graybeal said the city is working on a long-term solution to funding New Path’s ongoing operation. This could include a supportive housing investment fund where the city will solicit contributions from Ada County, other localities, and private donors. 

Graybeal also said the city is hoping to work with the State of Idaho to allow Medicaid to pay for the use of supportive services for low-income Idahoans. 

“Inclusion of support services in the state Medicaid plan is cost-effective and fiscally responsible,” she wrote.

Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. 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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