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#FINDINGHOPE: The expanding roles of emergency homeless shelters in the Treasure Valley

Posted: 10:19 PM, Feb 05, 2020
Updated: 2020-02-06 00:21:05-05

BOISE, Idaho — On this cold wintery night, one by one, locals experiencing homelessness are filling Treasure Valley shelters. But this season, both Boise Rescue Mission and Interfaith Sanctuary are not only providing a roof over their heads -- they're also equipping many of their guests with tools for overcoming addiction.

"Last night we had 400 people check in," said Jason Billester, Vice President of Development, Boise Rescue Mission.

At Boise Rescue Mission, which has the largest network of shelters in the valley, Billester says numbers are around what they expected.

"It's pretty stable right now. It's about where we were at last year."

But at Boise's Interfaith Sanctuary, executive director Jodi Peterson-Stigers said, even before this freezing weather, they were at capacity. But now she said they're turning away about thirty people a night.

"We're not able to place people out of the shelter very often right now," said Peterson-Stigers. "There's no access to housing -- it's tight."

So as the population grows -- and with it, the affordable housing crisis -- the role of these emergency shelters is expanding.

"I get kind of emotional about it because like, I didn't actually know that we could pull this off, I knew that we needed to," said Peterson-Stigers.

Addiction recovery programs are now up and running at both Interfaith Sanctuary and Boise Rescue Mission.

Interfaith's program is still brand new, but Peterson-Stigers says so far it's a success.

"It's going so well -- I think the thing that probably causes us the most frustration is that there's such long waiting lists now," said Peterson-Stigers.

With Project Recovery at Interfaith, a company called Recovery 4 Life sends clinicians to the shelter to counsel program guests. This --- combined with their mental health management day programming called Project Wellbeing -- is showing beneficial in some.

"We've probably had four people who've made it completely out," said Peterson-Stigers.

Boise Rescue Mission has offered free addiction counseling since 1996.

"The idea is, 'Let's treat the whole person,'" said Billester.

Their New Life Recovery Program is a one-year live-in program composed of counseling, classes and a bible-based curriculum.

"Once they get past that first month, we see an 80% success rate, so 8 out of 10 people are going to find recovery if they're really looking for it," said Billester about Boise Rescue Mission's program.

So as homeless locals find solace at these shelters, they're also exposed to more options than ever before.

Interfaith has only 12 spots in program recovery right now, though they're looking to expand. Boise Rescue Mission's is a little bigger with a program capacity of 30 in their women's program, and 42 in their men's.

Of course there are many experiencing homelessness who do not also struggle with addiction, though available resources are always beneficial. To learn more about these programs, click here for Interfaith Sanctuary's Project Recovery, and here for Boise Rescue Mission's New Life Recovery Program.