Boise's Homeless Hold Their Breath For New Housing Development

Aug 6, 2018

In December of 2015, the City of Boise shut down a tent camp for people experiencing homelessness called Cooper Court. Since then, the city has moved towards a “housing-first” model to combat homelessness and, as a result, a new housing project will open this October.

The Corpus Christi House, a day shelter for the homeless, has just reopened for lunch. About 30 people have filed in and 55-year-old Lindy Hamilton, originally from Mountain Home, is one of the faces here. She first experienced homelessness in 2003 as a single mother.

"I was in the party scene and I just ended up ... I chose partying over being responsible and that's why I went ahead and let my mom and dad adopt him." - Lindy Hamilton

“I was divorced from his dad and I was in the party scene and I just ended up - I chose partying over being responsible and that’s why I went ahead and let my mom and dad adopt him... I was in and out of my kids’ life a lot. In and out,” Hamilton said.

That "in and out" described several parts of her life. Drug relapses marked low points, often spurred by tragedy.

“I went on a like...two months run there of meth and alcohol after losing my dad in May 2007,” Hamilton said. “And then I just quit and then my partying just started all over again.”

When Hamilton's mother died in 2014, she relapsed again and tried to escape to Los Angeles to start over. But living on Skid Row, she faced the same cycle: sobriety, tragedy, relapse, homelessness, sobriety.

Hamilton’s kids wanted her back in Boise and she’s been looking for work and living at a shelter since May. She has a good feeling about a new housing project a few blocks away.

New Path Community Housing has been under construction west of downtown Boise since September, paid for with about $2 million from public and private groups. The 40 apartment units will be leased by people considered to be the most vulnerable of the chronically homeless.

But the community will not be treated as a rehabilitation program. Instead, it will house free, on-site counseling and medical services. Residents will pay 30 percent of their salary to cover rent. But for those without work, rent will be covered completely by the federal government.

Jodi Peterson co-directs Interfaith Sanctuary, another homeless shelter in Boise. She says this project should combat the core issues that prevent homeless people in Boise from bouncing back.

“We don’t have affordable housing and we don’t have real transportation options,” Peterson said. “So there are crucial pieces that our most liveable city needs to really attack before we grow in other ways, and this is the opinion of a girl running a homeless shelter.”

While Peterson says New Path is a good start, the growing homeless population in Boise needs more than 40 rooms to house everyone.

"There will be mistakes. People will fail a little bit, but this model is supposed to hold them up even when they fail." - Jodi Peterson, Interfaith Sanctuary

“There will be mistakes. People will fail a little bit, but this model is supposed to hold them up even when they fail,” Peterson said.

Even though addiction treatment services will be offered, New Path’s policy as a regular apartment building will allow people to bring legal substances like alcohol into the building.

Still, illegal drugs won’t be tolerated if they’re discovered. Connie Hogland is one of the developers of the project.

“The rules are that they’ll be regulated in the building, but what they do in their apartment we hope, is to grow, but we won’t know for sure,” Hogland said.

Hamilton says she’s one of those who’s trying to grow and thinks New Path will help her back on her feet.

“These shelters, they give you hope,” she said. “They give you somewhat a bit of structure to move forward. They have case managers. You have to use the availability of those case managers to move forward. So if you’re not gonna use the resources, and you’re not gonna do the footwork, then you’re not gonna get nowhere, and you’re gonna get comfortable in this lifestyle.”

If her application is accepted, Hamilton and her 39 new neighbors are expected to move in sometime in October.

For more news, follow Blake Simony on Twitter @blakesimony

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