Homeless ask, "Where else are we to go?"

Posted at 9:12 PM, Nov 20, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-20 23:12:32-05

After Boise police promise to crack down on homeless camping in the tent city of Cooper Court attitudes of the people living there haven't changed much.

Nearly 80 tents have popped up in Cooper Court. As many as 150 people call the alleyway home. But if there's concern police will turn the place over, it's hard to find.

 "They do this all the time," said one homeless man.

He was talking about warnings BPD handed to a number of people Thursday morning. The notices enumerated several city laws the tents violated and the fines associated with them.

Boise Police Captain Ron Winegar says conditions in Cooper Court can't continue. In the coming weeks he says officers will start issuing citations for camping and obstruction - the first since May. He hopes it will spur people into the nearby shelters.

But it doesn't seem like the tactic will work.

"I can't go into the shelters," said a man who simply goes by “James.” “Too many people in there. Too crowded."

BPD has kept several officers on patrol in and around the tent city. Though many of the homeless will grumble about “the police,” they have generally positive things to say about the patrol officers. In particular, they mention officer Tom Shuler.

"They seem to be pretty friendly guys and really understanding about things," said homeless man Jarid Rice. "I wouldn't put it past the whole group to laugh with them sometimes."

Even with a good relationship between the homeless and police, even if the rules are given teeth with stricter enforcement, the homeless of Cooper Court don't plan to pick up and leave. Several people said the same thing: "Where else am I supposed to go?" Many seem resigned to life on the street, wherever that may be."

"I'm just a sheep, going where I'm told to go," said James.

The presence of so many homeless in one area has hurt several businesses in the area, according to Tyler Moyer, co-owner of Crossfit Refinery. If police do move them out it will bring economic life to the neighborhood.

"It makes people uncomfortable going down the street," he said. "We've had people call before and once they've learned where out location is we may not eat from them again."

Moyer has operated his gym since 2009. Over the years he's had homeless people sleeping in front of his door, urinating on his building, and harassing people working out - particularly women. Though he likes the idea of cleaning up the street, he's not sure simply kicking the homeless out will have a lasting impact.

"I think it will be helpful, but I don't really know if it's a solution to the problem," he said. “People have found one place to go and they've congregated there. Now police are breaking that up and they'll just move to another place."

As of Friday afternoon, no one in Cooper Court said police have handed out any citations.