It may be the beginning of the end for the homeless tent city near downtown Boise.
Thursday morning residents of the alley known as Cooper Court were awoken by Boise Police officers handing out warnings. The notices listed several laws people were breaking by sleeping in the alley and notified them that they could be fined or jailed.
The tents are located by the Connector in downtown, in an alley off Americana Boulevard and River Street. It's behind the Interfaith Sanctuary homeless shelter.
Tuesday new signs went up in the alley with similar warnings and part of the alley that previously had tents was fenced off. The city has warned for months that the growing encampment was unsustainable because of health and safety reasons. City spokesman Mike Journee says the approaching winter has heightened the concern about campfires.
“It is to the point now," says Journee, "especially with our concern over open flames as well as the use of propane heaters inside tents, that concern has risen to the point of alarm.”
Journee says if the situation in the alley does not change the city is prepared to move beyond warnings and that there are plans in the works to ensure that people in the alley comply with city ordinances. He would not elaborate on what those plans are.
Earlier this fall, a U.S. District Court dismissed a lawsuit against the city. Bell v. the City of Boise alleged that the city's anti-camping ordinances criminalize homeless people, and a group of advocates challenged the constitutionality of the law under the Eighth Amendment. The U.S. Department of Justice had weighed in earlier before the dismissal, indicating the city's ordinances are illegal.
Most recently, a local nonprofit has proposed the idea of building small shed-like houses for the homeless in Cooper Court. A similar idea is being used in Eugene, Ore. But city officials say that is not a longterm fix, and instead favor a "housing first" model like that in Salt Lake City.
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