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Interfaith Sanctuary proposal headed to third public hearing after six hours of public testimony

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Boise has longer to wait before Planning & Zoning makes a decision on the possible relocation of Interfaith Sanctuary.

On Monday, P&Z heard roughly six hours of public testimony about the emergency shelter’s proposal to build an expanded shelter for the homeless community at the former Salvation Army warehouse on State Street. P&Z Commissioners stopped the hearing a little after 10 p.m. due to the lateness of the hour and opted to continue the hearing next week at 6 p.m. for the over 40 people still waiting on Zoom to testify at the end of the night.

[Under $15: Low wage workers in Boise face tough choices in tight housing market]

What happens next?

The proposal, which was first introduced to the public nearly a year ago, has been mired in months of neighborhood opposition, an eight-week city task force and testy community meetings. Proponents say the expansion is a necessary step to accommodate the growing need for shelter in Boise. On the other hand, opponents and many nearby neighbors argue the shelter is not prepared to relocate so close to a residential area and that it will bring increased crime, drug use and other disturbances. 

Eighty-six people testified before P&Z, with roughly 60 of them speaking against the project. The first time the commission took up the issue was prior to Thanksgiving when commissioners held a four-hour hearing and question and answer session with Interfaith Sanctuary’s attorney and the Veterans Park Neighborhood Association. 

Now, the project heads to a third hearing and a decision from P&Z on whether or not to grant a conditional use permit for the shelter. The decision will likely be appealed to Boise City Council from there for another set of hearings and potentially to judicial review to be argued in court.

Anyone who testified this week will not be permitted to testify for a second time.

Safety concerns dominated testimony

Commissioners heard a range of opinions on the project during Monday’s hearing.

Opponents of the project brought up dozens of concerns, including the potential of guests at Interfaith Sanctuary leaving used needles in the neighborhood, public urination, camping near the Greenbelt and being disruptive in the Willow Lane Athletic Complex. Many talked about their belief in the need for shelter services like Interfaith Sanctuary in Boise, but they said the project should remain in downtown or be located away from residential zones to avoid impacts to neighbors. 

A few members of the crowd repeatedly alleged Interfaith Sanctuary could not possibly screen for sex offenders and it would bring people who had committed sex crimes to an area with schools, a park and other areas they said are popular with kids.

“Please don’t tempt a suffering and recovering sex offender nor endanger the

neighborhood children,” three residents wearing Boise Better shirts said at the conclusions of their comments.

A few others also linked Interfaith Sanctuary’s proposal with the 2018 stabbing at a children’s birthday in a nearby apartment complex. Fred Haltman, a resident of Alamosa Street, told the Commission he saw convicted stabber Timmy Kinner in his neighborhood several times wearing a red hoodie and found out later he committed the stabbing.”

“I found out that guy was the one who stabbed those girls and killed a 4-year-old at her birthday party,” he told the commission. “He has mental problems and you’re going to increase the amount of mental patients in the area by putting the shelter there.”

Proponents of the project emphasized Interfaith Sanctuary’s growth in the past eighteen months which now includes day services at its current location and the way guests are treated “with love” and “without judgment” at the shelter. They said Boise should embrace the need to house all people, regardless of their situation

“One of the pillars of the Christian faith is to care for and love the least, the last and the lost,” Collister Methodist Church Senior Pastor Joe Bankard said.

Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel is a BoiseDev reporter focused on the City of Boise, housing, homelessness and growth. Contact her at margaret@boisedev.com or by phone at (757)705-8066.

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