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Boise eyes Fire Station 5 affordable housing project for homeless community with medical needs


More permanent supportive housing is slated for downtown Boise. 

Last week, the City of Boise selected Boise-based developer Northwest Real Estate Capital Corporation as the developer for a new affordable housing project set to be co-located with the rebuilt Fire Station 5 near Rhodes Skatepark. The project, which will have a minimum of 40 units, would be designed as a place for people in Boise’s homeless community with medical needs but who are not ill enough to require nursing home-style care. 

Boise’s Housing and Community Development Director Maureen Brewer said the goal for the project would be to find a place to house people in the homeless community who are especially vulnerable to spreading disease and struggle with day-to-day activities that make it difficult to live in a shelter. 

“We know that we have a specific subset of people experiencing homelessness that struggle with their activities of daily living and there are permanent supportive housing models wherein there is a supportive services team that can help with activities of daily living so we don’t have to unnecessarily escalate from struggling with activities of daily living to skilled nursing,” she said. 

Brewer said the project is still in its early stages of development and things can change, but she estimates the city will be ready to apply for financing (likely through the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program) next year. She estimates the project is roughly two years from completion. 

Medical needs in the homeless community 

Boise’s homeless community, and homeless communities around the country, are skewing older than ever. 

Roughly a third of people living on the streets in the United States are elderly, with the number expected to climb to 95,000 elders living without stable housing by 2050, according to the National Health Care for the Homeless Council. The continued rise in the elderly homeless population is caused by a combination of rapidly rising housing costs, high healthcare bills and the loss of pension plans that once fueled millions of Americans through their Golden Years. 

Living without a home of your own is punishing on anyone, but it can be especially difficult for those with health problems or older Americans. Living in a shelter means a resident cannot modify their environment to accommodate their accessibility concerns, it’s difficult to manage a diet or diabetes while often eating carb-laden meals provided to those in need and constantly being exposed to the heat or cold can make health problems worse. 

Boise’s homeless shelter system, whether you stay at Interfaith Sanctuary or one of Boise Rescue Mission’s four shelters, can be difficult or impossible for aging residents for a range of reasons. And because of HIPPA rules, any sort of preventative nursing care, even if it’s routine, cannot be provided in an open dorm setting because of privacy concerns, Jodi Peterson-Stigers told BoiseDev in 2019. 

New Path Community Housing, Boise’s first permanent supportive housing development with 40 rooms on Fairview Avenue, had residents who moved into the building return after a period of time to the emergency shelter because of difficulties getting the day-to-day care they needed, the Idaho Press reported in the first year of its operation. 

Casey Mattoon, the manager for Boise’s network of homelessness service providers Our Path Home, told BoiseDev the goal for the Fire Station 5 project would not be to provide skilled nursing care, but more of a middle option for people who are not mobile or well enough to stay in a traditional shelter or a permanent supportive housing building. They said the city is looking to some projects in Denver aiming to house people experiencing homelessness who need medical care as an example while they design the project. 

Boise’s Permanent Supportive Housing push

This project is part of a pipeline of projects the city is developing to provide permanent housing with supportive services to members of the homeless community. 

Last year, the city set out a goal to build 250 new permanent supportive housing units to address homelessness in Ada County. This is in addition to a raft of other mileposts the city hopes to city, like the construction of 1,250 units of affordable housing, preservation of 1,000 existing affordable units and 300 dedicated units from developers to house families exiting homelessness. 

The Fire Station 5 project, which Brewer said will hopefully be constructed alongside the rebuild of the aging station, will also be in addition to an expansion of New Path through a partnership with Pacific Companies. 

Correction: An earlier version of this article gave the wrong location for the headquarters of Northwest Real Estate Capital Corporation. This has been corrected to reflect the company is based in Boise.

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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