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Can 'community will' end homelessness in Boise? Absolutely, says CATCH

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Courtesy of CATCH
Cassidy is a recent graduate of CATCH, a Treasure Valley nonprofit which aims to end homelessness and secure financial security.

“I have my keys! My own keys!”

Those were the exact words of a woman, fleeing domestic violence with her two sons, but graduated from the CATCH program and securing a new, safe place that they could call home.

CATCH is “Charitable Assistance to Community’s Homeless," a nonprofit serving Ada and Canyon counties. Simply put (but what they do is far from simple), CATCH helps secure housing and financial assistance to families in desperate need.

“Seeing kids running through their new house and getting to pick out their bedroom and seeing families that get beds — they've never had new beds before,” said Abby White, CATCH case worker. “Just seeing their humanity and dignity being restored and their hope being restored.”

White, CATCH development director Garrett Kalt and Cassidy, a recent graduate of the CATCH program, visited with Morning Edition host George Prentice to talk about steep challenges, amazing success stories and CATCH’s upcoming charitable event that is aiming to house 10 more homeless families in the Treasure Valley.

“It will take a lot of community will, but here at CATCH, we truly believe that we can end family homelessness here in the Treasure Valley.”
Garrett Kalt

Read the full transcript below:

GEORGE PRENTICE: It is Morning Edition on Boise State Public Radio News. Good morning. I'm George Prentice. The staggering impact of COVID 19 has rocked Idaho. On top of that, add another layer of trouble: this is an area already hobbled due to a lack of affordable housing. So, the heartbreak of having nowhere to live is that much more challenging. And we're going to spend some time this morning dealing with just that. CATCH serves Ada and Canyon counties - It's all about securing stable housing and financial independence. Garrett Kalt is director of development at CATCH. Abby White is a case manager at CATCH. Good morning to you both.

GARRETT KALT: Good morning, George. Thanks for having us.

ABBY WHITE: Good morning.

PRENTICE: Up top, talk to me about this extra layer of challenge. What does your access to housing inventory look like when the price of housing is skyrocketing and COVID 19 has reined in so many people's decisions?

WHITE: The market is really difficult right now. Obviously we have the issue of COVID, but then there's the reality of the need for housing being higher than what is available. So, it's a demand and supply issue. We have people moving into this area from other states. There's just not enough housing, and prices have just skyrocketed to the point where it's really tough for folks that even have income to pay rent. The average price of a two bedroom is around $1,300 [per month rent] right now, which… it's hard for even just the average person to be able to sustain that. And then we have such a low vacancy rate. which is about one percent right now based on recent surveys. So, the housing market is just so competitive; it's so tight. And then we have the families that we're working with, who are experiencing homelessness, needing housing. I mean, they just have so many barriers to being able to compete with people that have good paying jobs, decent credit, no criminal history. The folks that we're working with just really need kind of a second chance. And landlords just aren't to be…  to be frank, they can choose to be more picky with who they rent to. So, they're really not giving our families much opportunity. And so. it's been really difficult to successfully be able to house families quickly. That's definitely a realistic challenge we have right now.

PRENTICE: Garrett, talk to me about the level of optimism within your organization, because my sense is that your waitlist is only getting longer.

KALT: So, we have lots of communities, George, that are beyond real hope when it comes to ending family homelessness. You can think of Portland, Seattle and other cities. We are not at that point here in Boise. It will take a lot of community will, but here at CATCH, we truly believe that we can end family homelessness here in the Treasure Valley. We're really at a pivotal point in time where, if we all come together to address this issue, we can end family homelessness.

PRENTICE: Abby, would you do us a favor? We have another guest to join us. Could you introduce us?

WHITE: So, we're so grateful to have Cassidy here. Cassidy and her family have graduated from the CATCH program. She successfully went through our program and was housed and graduated. And she's here with us this morning.

PRENTICE: Cassidy, good morning to you.

CASSIDY LANDRY: Good morning. How are you?

PRENTICE: I'm well, Cassidy, wat can you tell me about your story?

LANDRY: Oh, my goodness. Well, I am not originally from Idaho. I am from Texas. I moved here after a pretty sticky divorce. When I moved here, I was doing pretty well. I had a job and I had just bought my car…

PRENTICE: Can I ask what that job was?

LANDRY: I worked at a car dealership. Doing the paperwork? So… but…I don't have any family here at all. I knew one person when I moved here. So, it kind of left me a little vulnerable as far as the people I would let into my life. And I ended up meeting a guy who very quickly sabotaged everything that I had and everything I was. I was renting a room in a gorgeous house, and I had my job going for me. And it was almost as if I blinked. I was at a parking lot at a hospital, and I had nowhere to go. I was kicked out of my house because of this guy and I had lost my job because of this guy. And so… I remember that first day…,Naturally, when you heard about homeless people, it's always tied into going to a shelter. And so, I called the nearest shelter, and I went and I stayed there. It was so intimidating. It was scary. I've never been to a shelter before, and you walk in… and they're checking my hair, and it was just it was very overwhelming. So, you're sleeping on a cot that doesn't… well, you don't know if they wash that pillow or that blanket. And I remember that night; I didn't even take my shoes off. When I slept there, I didn't sleep. The entire night my shoes stayed on, and I kept my backpack right by me. And then they woke me up at like 5:00 in the morning because you had to leave that early. And so, after that, I just decided, you know what? I think my car is the best option. So, I started sleeping in my car with this guy. But he was…, how would I…? I mean…he was…he just wasn't a nice guy. And he…  well, I wasn't allowed to go… I wasn't allowed to ask for help. And this was after losing my job and losing my health care. You know, you can't afford to go to the doctor or stay on your medication. And that's when I became homeless.

PRENTICE: How long was it that you stayed in a car?

LANDRY: I became homeless on January 28th.

PRENTICE: So how did you find CATCH? How did CATCH find you?

LANDRY: So every day I would go and park my car. I found a spot in Boise that is kind of sectioned off to where only one car can park there, and a tree would shade that spot for the majority of the day. So I would go park there, and I would spend hours and hours just Googling. I would Google things like “how to be homeless,” “how to be homeless in Boise,” “homelessness in Boise.” All kind of just random things like that. And when I would find somewhere that maybe could help me or that could get me food that day, I would call them. And even if they couldn't help me, I learned that they would always say, “Well, we can’t help you, but if you call this person or this organization, then they can lead you to the right place.” I almost I laughed when I found it, so I'm like, “This is a scam, like, there's just no way that these people are going to help me get out of homelessness and back on my feet for nothing.” But you know, who cares if it's a scam? You're homeless, you can risk it. It was around May, so I became homeless in January, and then I finally came across them in May, and I had my assessment with them, and got on their wait list.

PRENTICE: Tell me about…well, give me the thumbnail of what your life is like today.

LANDRY: Oh my gosh. Well, I mean, it's crazy that I'm talking to you. So, it kind of puts it in perspective. It was a it was an adjustment coming out of homelessness, you know, like I was, you know, by that point, I was so drained and I, I had become mentally ill. So,it took a while to get back, adjusted to what is actually normal in my new normalcy. But I was finally able…. I got back into school, and I'm actually going to school for social work, in hope that I can work for the CATCH program one day.

PRENTICE: My sense is your health is good. Would I be correct there?

LANDRY: Yes, it is very good. I'm doing really well. I love my apartment and I, I love the city and the people in it. And the CATCH program.  In a sense, they are, they are my family here and I'm so grateful for them.

PRENTICE: Abby, what can people do to help?

WHITE: Oh, gosh. I think, first and foremost, just helping to build awareness about this issue and we always have opportunities for volunteers. We've got lots of ways that people in the community can touch the people that really need support and help. We've got financial opportunities for people to help support us. So we are a nonprofit, so we do really need the support from our community to kind of feed the blood supply so the heart can keep pumping. We have events. We have opportunities for people to give  financially so that we can keep doing the work that that we're doing. Also another really, really practical way to help is to connect us to landlords that are open to working with us because our success so much relies on the willingness of the community to give people opportunities for housing. Private landlords, property managers,  a mom and pop that has a basement, maybe a two bedroom, that's willing to rent things like that really make make a difference. So, if there are any listeners out there that are property owners or managers or just know someone that would be willing to rent to a family, please, please let us know.

KALT: As Abby was mentioning, financial support really does help our organization. It takes, on average, around $7, 500 to house a family who's experiencing homelessness. And we do have an upcoming event called CATCH the Flavor that will take place on October 27th. And with that event, we're hoping to raise $75,000 to house 10 families in our program, and the event will include a delivered gourmet three course meal. Stories about the clients we serve…stories very similar to Cassidy's. And then also, it will just be people coming together to support our vision, that every family, every person really does deserve a home.

PRENTICE: Abby, why do you do what you do?

WHITE: Oh, gosh. I think the thing that I love the most about what I'm doing is that I get to connect with people. I think it's that connection to people that are struggling is what makes my life meaningful. It helps me remember that we all struggle, and there have been moments in my life when I've really needed a hand. And so being able to provide that and be there when people are really kind of at their bottom, and helping to give people hope, makes me feel like what I'm doing really matters. So, it's just that connection and really seeing people's lives. Change is the most incredible thing. Seeing  kids running through their new house and getting to pick out their bedroom and seeing families that get beds - they've never had new beds before. Just seeing their humanity and dignity being restored and their hope being restored. It's just the greatest thing ever, and I started volunteering at CATCH when I moved to Boise. I did not want to work for a little while. I was kind of burned out in my last social work job, so I started volunteering with CATCH. I just needed something to do, and I just fell in love with it and I have never left and they are paying me now, which is great. So, I'm just really, really grateful that I can use my education and skills to be a part of something so meaningful and so needed.

PRENTICE: I know it's awkward to gush in front of someone, but how impressive is Cassidy, for sure?

WHITE: Yes, she is the hero. And we get to meet these people that are…I mean, certainly none of us are perfect and we all struggle. And I mean, she's totally the hero, for sure.

PRENTICE: I'm sure for the 100th time you'll hear ”congratulations,” but this time you’ll hear it from me. Cassidy, thank you so much. Abby White, thank you. Garrett Kalt. And they're the folks from CATCH.  I want you all to have a great morning and thanks so much.

WHITE: Thank you so much for having us.

LANDRY: Thank you so much.

Find reporter George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren

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