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Politics & Government

Interfaith Sanctuary gets a green light for State Street shelter

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Interfaith Sanctuary
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After nearly a year and a half and dozens of workshops and public meetings, Interfaith Sanctuary can move forward on its plans to build a new shelter on State Street in Boise.

Boise City Councilmembers deliberated for hours Monday before overturning a decision by the Planning and Zoning Commission to reject the shelter’s plan.

The permit adds 30 conditions Interfaith Sanctuary must meet before it can open its new shelter at the former Salvation Army location.

That includes a hard cap on the number of beds it can have at 205 – which is less than what’s needed in Boise.

The shelter will include on-site services, like serving meals, allowing the unhoused to stay there during the day and having a separate medical wing for those with health issues or needing hospice care.

Debate, at times, was tense.

Councilmember Lisa Sanchez compared terms in city code, like adverse impact, to racist covenants that blocked non-White people in the past from buying homes.

“It’s not going to be racial slurs, but it is going to be terms like adverse. What does that mean: adverse?” Sanchez asked.

Councilmember Patrick Bageant, who voted against the plan, rejected that argument.

“The code wouldn’t allow us or me to grant or deny a conditional use permit based on how people feel about each other,” Bageant said.

Boise’s Planning and Zoning Commission denied Interfaith’s request for a conditional use permit in January on a 5-1 vote, despite city staff recommending its approval with 22 conditions.

The commission said the shelter wasn’t compatible with the neighborhood, though Valor Pointe, a shelter for unhoused veterans, sits nearby.

It also said Interfaith would “place an undue burden” on police and emergency medical services.

Boise Police Chief Ryan Lee testified Monday night that calls for law enforcement to respond at the shelter’s current downtown location are significantly higher than those at the proposed State Street location. But Lee said the department would be able to handle that shift.

The project faced stiff opposition from neighborhood associations and citizens groups that have argued the shelter would house too many people who would boost crime and lower property values.

Interfaith won’t be given its occupancy license until it’s fully built out. It will also have to meet with the city council in six months to make sure it’s in compliance.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

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