Mayoral candidates attend Q&A with Boise's homeless

Runoff election is December 3
Posted at 12:34 PM, Nov 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-22 11:12:41-05

BOISE, Idaho — Homelessness has been a major talking point throughout their campaigns. Now, the two candidates for Boise mayor are addressing many in the city’s homeless population directly.

Mayor Dave Bieter and Council President Lauren McLean attended a Q & A at emergency shelter Interfaith Sanctuary.

Ahead of the December 3 runoff election, homeless shelter guests wrote questions for the candidates on comment cards, and candidates did the same for guests to answer. The event was not open to the public and was only for people experiencing homelessness.

“We are gaining on it more than any other city that I know of — Lauren said we should be the model— we are the model," said Bieter.

A topic that drew some contention was the camping ordinance and the mayor’s request to the U.S. Supreme Court to review a decision rejecting the city's ban on people sleeping in public places.

“We are making progress again with New Path, with Valor Pointe, with Catch -- with programs for, across the board, for the homeless. But in the meantime we can’t have camps because it undermines everything that we’re working on," said Bieter.

McLean was on the council back in 2015 when the city evacuated encampments on Cooper Court.

"I truly believe that we can prevent encampments without writing those tickets," said McLean.

At this event, McLean reiterated her stance against a camping ban.

“If we want to prevent camps, we have to prevent homelessness. We’ve got to address the affordability crisis in this community," said McLean.

Bieter said those tickets don't make anyone a criminal, because they are like a traffic ticket.

“Just a human nature level -- it is so wrong," said Michael Rhodes, an event guest experiencing homelessness.

With every homeless guest we spoke to after, there seemed to be a theme of support for McLean.

“She was so in touch with the audience, and the public. I’m watching Mr. Bieter and it felt like, 'Me me me I don’t care,'" said Eric Pavlis, a Q & A guest.

“She has more thoughts about us than he does,” said Debbie Lydle, another Q & A guest experiencing homelessness.

“If you do nothing but just hand out tickets, nothing changes. But what her plan is, is to truly look into getting resources, into actually increasing available, like, apartments," said Rhodes.

Still, Bieter maintains he wants to help and is in support of the ban because he cares.

“People were preying on people there, selling drugs, assaulting them, uh, we had crimes committed there. We don’t want you in a camp and frankly we want to help you transition out of sanction,” said Bieter.

The mayoral runoff election is December 3 and Interfaith Sanctuary and Corpus Christi are offering free shuttles that day to take shelter guests to a nearby polling place.