CATCH: More Idahoans experiencing homelessness, hundreds waiting on housing

Posted at 2:15 PM, Dec 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-13 19:18:53-05

ADA COUNTY, Idaho — As the housing crisis continues in the City of Boise and Ada County, people experiencing homelessness are being left unhoused for longer.

CATCH, a nonprofit that is working to end homelessness, said its waiting lists are longer and it’s taking more time to get people off that list and into stable housing. Mary Beth Kennedy experienced homeless from 2014 until this past June.

“I got out of a bad relationship,” she said. “It’s scary, to be a woman, you never know what’s going to happen."

After serving time at the Idaho Department of Correction, getting sober with the help of an Interfaith Sanctuary Program and a stay in the hospital because of severe pneumonia, Mary Beth got a spot at New Path. This is a housing first apartment building in Boise for those who are experiencing chronic homelessness.

The waiting list Mary Beth was on to get into housing now has about 500 people on it — but this isn’t the total number of people in Ada County waiting for housing.

“We have about 300 families that are on a waiting list to access housing programs at this current time,” said Sara Busick, the program director for Our Path Home Connect.

Busick said in 2019, this list had roughly 220 families and these families don't include those staying in a hotel or with friends. This only includes families that are either in a shelter or on the streets.

This adds up to nearly 800 people in Ada County waiting on housing.

Other data CATCH shared includes:

  • Roughly 25% of their clients are over the age of 62
  • One-third of the families CATCH serves are actively fleeing a domestic violence situation
  • A common demographic among clients currently are families with a stay-at-home parent and a working parent in a situation where the working parent loses their job and the family is suddenly facing homelessness for the first time.

“Year to year, we’re not seeing a giant increase in families since 2019, but what we are seeing is that the waitlists are growing because once they get into the system, they can’t get back out,” said Stephanie Day, the executive director of CATCH. “I’ve worked in the treasure valley for the last 14 years on homelessness issues and I have never seen the housing market this difficult.”

CATCH said there are things the community can do to help. Any landlords that would be willing to rent to a family transitioning out of homelessness can reach out to CATCH.

As we’ve previously reported, CATCH has a landlord partnership program where the nonprofit can help with deposits and mediation between tenants and landlords.

“Other than that, I really think that one of the biggest things we can do is just learn about it because most of us will never experience homelessness so we won’t really fully understand it,” Day said.

CATCH said there are some common misconceptions people have about homelessness. One is that people experiencing homelessness are dangerous.

“They’re very often victimized, they’re incredibly vulnerable and many of the people that are victimizing them are housed,” Busick said.

Additionally, CATCH said about 60% of people experiencing homelessness have an income, it’s just not enough to support them. Many are on Social Security or Disability which gives most people about 800 dollars a month.

“Just think about using $800 for all of your monthly expenses and that’s where a lot of our folks are right now,” Busick said.

Another misconception is addiction precedes homelessness.

"What we find is it that it goes the other way around. People didn't really find addiction until they were already out here living on the street and they were just looking for something to kind of numb the trauma."

Busick said the one thing that unites people experiencing homelessness is trauma. She gave Mary Beth's circumstances as an example.

"Mary is out here living on the street, staying in the shelter, while also experiencing trauma — the trauma of homelessness — and then also had this incredibly traumatic life that led her to where she was," Busick said.

As Mary Beth could tell you, getting back into housing is just the first step.

“It seems, I’m responsible for things that I wasn’t for a long time and I didn’t realize how hard that was going to be,” she said.

Busick agreed, housing is the first step. Continuing mental health care and adjusting to life in an apartment is part of the next steps for Mary Beth.

"Housing is not the final solution for folks, it's really the first step to long-term stability and sustainability," she said.

If you're in need of housing assistance, click here for assistance.