Boise Mayor Lauren McLean appeared in a video posted late Thursday to social media to say she asked that the Interfaith Sanctuary project for a new shelter along State St. be put on hold.
“This morning I asked Interfaith Sanctuary if they would please pause their application, and they agreed,” McLean said. “I know we’re committed to ensuring that we get this right when we can and how we can while protecting those most vulnerable in this community, by keeping neighborhoods whole, and by centering in on the values that we all hold as Boiseans.”
McLean said the city would establish a task force to look at next steps.
“(They) will be charged with over the course of only eight weeks reviewing the best practices with regard to shelter, reviewing land that’s available and the plan proposed by Interfaith,” she said in the video. “Looking at all of the solutions that we have to provide as a community to ensure that we stay who we are, and we do it in a way that’s reflective of who we are.”
McLean said in the video the task force had not yet been formed. After the initial publication of this story, McLean told BoiseDev that work to form that group would start next week.
“In the next week, I will be working on building that and making the invitations and the people who will be making up the task force,” she said Thursday evening. “We will invite the leadership of the neighborhood as well as the neighborhood associations at large. This is a community issue.”
McLean also said Interfaith would be involved, the Our Path Home group, as well as Boise Police, and the city’s teams who engage with the homeless community.
McLean said conversations she had with members of the homeless community triggered her action to ask Interfaith to hold off.
Interfaith ‘wanted this to happen’
“I met with the mayor this morning and we agreed to take a pause and participate in the task force to ensure their project works for everyone,” Interfaith Sanctuary Executive Director Jodi Peterson-Stigers told BoiseDev. “We’ve always wanted this to happen, and if it’s extra steps we’re happy to take extra steps.”
Interfaith formally applied to the City of Boise earlier this spring to revamp a former Salvation Army facility at 4306 W. State St. in Boise into a new shelter for those experiencing homelessness. The 30,000 square foot building would see renovation into a shelter with beds for 200 guests, outdoor play areas, a garden, courtyard, commercial kitchen, office space for Interfaith Sanctuary staff, and day shelter space for guests.
The project requires a conditional use permit from the City of Boise to move forward. The city had not yet set a hearing date for the application to go in front of the Planning & Zoning Commission.
Shelter could still happen on State
“At the end of that eight weeks, I will expect that committee to come back to me with a proposed solution and agreement around better shelter,” she said. “And I want to be clear that it could well be on State St. It might be on a piece of property nearby that the city has.”
McLean later clarified to BoiseDev that the city doesn’t have a specific property on State St. identified.
“We are doing an assessment of the parcels the city owns – the land we have available that we could put to housing needs,” she said.
Peterson-Stigers said that the process to build a new homeless shelter is new for Interfaith – and the city.
“Shelters don’t pop up all the time,” she said. “We’re only going to be good if we are making sure we are doing this the best way possible to serve our population. This extra support is going to ensure that.”
McLean decries ‘tone and tenor’ of debate
Many neighbors near the proposed shelter have raised concerns about the project. Meetings between Interfaith officials and neighborhood representatives led to an initial delay in the project and changes to the proposal. Members of the homeless community also offered differing opinions on the move.
McLean noted that conversations with residents and people working on the project often circled back to the location.
“But all too often the focus became on one topic only and that is the location of a proposed emergency shelter that serves an incredibly important need within our community,” McLean said. “I know as Boiseans that the tone and tenor that I’ve witnessed is not reflective of who we are.”
Interfaith sold the land and building housing its current shelter in the River Street neighborhood near the I-184 Connector to the Miller family of Boise. Peterson-Stigers said the pause would not jeopardize the current shelter.
“We have a 12-month written leaseback,” she said. “After that as long as it looks like movement is happening the owner will be accommodating. It can’t go on forever. I think he’ll understand if we take these extra eight weeks to ensure we do this well.”
BoiseDev’s Margaret Carmel contributed reporting to this story.