Interfaith Sanctuary's new S.T.E.P.S. Program is off to a great start

BOISE - To help get them pointed in the right direction, guests at the Interfaith Sanctuary Shelter now have access to a new program. Simply put, leaders of the shelter say it's working.

Ernest Garcia, who goes by "Buzz," can be seen any day of the week at the Boise shelter. He says people often snicker at his nickname.

"Everyone takes the wrong attitude towards it," Garcia says.

But, that the nickname is something his dad went by and somehow got passed on to him.

Garcia is a S.T.E.P.S. Program graduate. And, the first step for anyone who decides to enter into the program is basic but opens many doors that can help get to the root of the problem of homelessness.

"Until we have them with a state I.D.," says Jodi Peterson with Interfaith Sanctuary. "We can't get them mental health treatment, we can't get them Medicaid, we can't do anything."

Once signed up, you're assigned a case manager. Even with the new staff brought on, there is currently a waiting list.

"We are giving them a lot of great reasons to get connected to one of our case managers and they're getting to see why they should because people are having really dramatic results," Peterson says.

Take Garcia for example, he stayed at the shelter for ten months when he first moved to the Treasure Valley.

Successfully moving on with his life, he is now the maintenance manager at the shelter.

And, as part of the program, he is set to receive a new set of teeth next week, thanks to dentists who are sponsoring S.T.E.P.S. graduates.

"The three who are involved with our guests, I think it's rewarding for them too," Peterson says. "They know that they're changing lives."

Garcia, who also mentors guests, knows this will go a long way in boosting confidence for those transitioning into permanent housing and beyond.

"You walk into the interview with the idea that if they're not hiring you, they made a mistake. And, it helps how you present yourself," Garcia says. "So, a nice set of teeth helps you with that too."

You can support this new program by visiting http://supportingshelter.org.

Something else to look forward to this Fall, the opening of a playground at the shelter. Thanks to donations gathered through the statewide, non-profit fundraiser Idaho Gives, the blacktop was laid down in the parking lot this week, fencing is going up and the equipment has been ordered. A ribbon cutting is hopeful for sometime in Nov.

Another project that is in the works at the shelter is making room for a kitchen. The long-term goal is to provide guests with job training in the field of culinary arts. It will also be an opportunity to provide them with more nutritious meals.

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