Boise’s ‘Housing First’ Provides A New Solution To Idaho Homelessness

Apr 30, 2019

In a booming city like Boise, a new apartment complex is hardly news. But New Path Community Housing, which opened in December, is different — all of its residents used to be homeless. This is the “housing first” model adopted by other cities, and Boise wants to build more.


David Hall is one of 45 residents at New Path. Half a year ago, he was living on the streets. In 2011, before he was homeless, Hall ran for mayor of Boise against current mayor David Bieter. A large part of his campaign, he says, was promoting the “housing first” concept from other states.

"This New Path Community Housing is a great solution. It’s what I was trying to get people focused on back when I ran for mayor," he says.

 

New Path houses 45 people inside of its apartments.
Credit Brooklyn Riepma / Boise State Public Radio

At the polls, Hall brought in more than a quarter of the vote that year. Recently, he’s watched the city adopt the plan. Hall says he went homeless in 2013 after getting a back injury. He was unable to hold down a job, and everything cratered from there.

"It took a couple years, but I’m grateful to everybody who put it together because I know what the alternative for me was," he says.

 

According to Idaho's Finance and Housing Association 2018 report, there are 1,256 Idahoans without a home.

 

"The first intervention we should do is housing," says Wyatt Schroeder, director of community partnerships for the City of Boise.

 

The concept is simple but innovative. The first thing they do is put people in houses. Before healthcare, before job training, before anything, they first stabilize the situation.

 

"Then from there, we’re going to have a lot more success getting someone to overcome their addiction, a lot more success with medical management or working with someone’s mental illness, a lot more success on job placement, and financial independence," Schroeder says.

 

New Path offers amenities such as a community room and outdoor area.
Credit Brooklyn Riepma / Boise State Public Radio

Schroeder’s previous role was as director of CATCH, the Charitable Assistance To Community’s Homelessness. CATCH pushed the notion of “housing first” that led to New Path. They looked to one question: What if the homeless were no longer homeless?

"After some time, just in a healthy space where you feel safe, you just can look at your day a little bit differently. You notice that on people’s faces," he says.

Schroeder says New Path residents pay 30 percent of their income to rent the apartments. Those with no income don’t need to pay anything. He says people can stay there as long as they feel necessary, and can renew their leases if they desire.

 

Wyatt Schroeder stands in his office at Boise City Hall.
Credit Brooklyn Riepma / Boise State Public Radio

"Some folks will be with us for a little while, and some not so long. But it’s really about those unique journeys and for us to be able to nurture those unique journeys what they need most for their own personal health," he says.

If housing comes first, then healthcare comes second. Hospitals St. Al’s and St. Luke’s were among the funders of New Path. Additionally, Terry Reilly Health Services provides healthcare on-site throughout the apartment complex, according to case manager Kendra Lutes.

 

"Those onsite support services, where people literally can just go down the elevator or down the stairs and have someone right there to help them, is invaluable," says Lutes.

 

She and a team of providers are available every weekday for the residents of New Path. She says this is crucial for their success because it allows them to not have to wait at a clinic, get a referral or pay for their treatment.

 

The Terry Reilly group has been working with the homeless population for more than 20 years, but Lutes says this is the first time they’ve offered support services at an apartment complex.

 

"45 people doesn’t sound like a lot, but we’re always busy," she says.

 

"We had to do something about that." - Wyatt Schroeder

Schroeder and the city have plans for another housing first facility similar to New Path. Valor Pointe will have 26 units and house homeless military veterans.

"They have served this country, and unfortunately are seeing much higher rates of a lot of mental health issues, alcohol or substance misuse, and unfortunately for homelessness. We had to do something about that," says Schroeder.

 

Support services from the Boise VA will be offered onsite at Valor Pointe, just like what Terry Reilly offers at New Path. Schroeder says they plan to break ground this summer and open the doors next spring.

 

David Hall uses his computer while lounging in his furnished apartment.

"Giving somebody a home is the answer," David Hall says. "If you really want to address it and get these people off the street, you're not going to help everybody, but there’s going to be people like me that you’re going to be able to help."

Hall says he still revisits the homeless shelters once in a while to remind him of what he was able to leave behind.

 

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