TREASURE VALLEY, Idaho — As rental prices and other necessary costs continue to soar, housing experts say they’re seeing a lot of people experiencing homelessness for the first time and they expect this number to continue to increase.
Interfaith Sanctuary said they’re already regularly meeting capacity and keeping a waitlist and the Boise Rescue Mission said if the conditions of the housing and rental market continue, they’ll see an increase in people coming to them for help too.
April Cuper and her family are one of many who found themselves without a place to live, after her landlord told them last summer, their lease wouldn't be renewed and they had 30 days to vacate.
“Normally, we can just jump into something else, we've always been able to do that. This time it was different,” Cuper said.
This time they couldn't find somewhere else affordable to live and didn't have much luck with resources meant to keep people housed. April is a self-published author and her husband works at a hospital.
"We're sitting right in the middle, between can't get the section 8 thing, but can't afford rent," Cuper said.
Now, they’re staying at the Red Lion hotel with the help of Interfaith Sanctuary.
Jodi Peterson-Stigers, the director of Interfaith Sanctuary said there's a waitlist for this program, but April jumped to the front of the list, upon learning of a second hardship.
"I'm going through chemo," Cuper said.
She has breast cancer.
"That was an interesting experience. I found out in July, around the same time," Cuper said.
Peterson-Stigers said they’re seeing a lot of people who are experiencing homelessness for the first time because of the Treasure Valley’s housing crisis.
“They may even have fallen out of their housing and have been living different ways for a while, but finally it’s become clear that they’re going to need more resources and support,” she said.
Rev. Bill Roscoe is seeing the same thing at the Boise Rescue Mission.
"With the rents as high as they are, a lot of people are really just getting by barely, you know, to pay all the bills, the rent and have food on the table,” he said.
There are resources available to people experiencing homelessness in the Treasure Valley.
Boise Rescue Mission
Boise Rescue Mission has five locations throughout the Treasure Valley.
“If someone were to check-in at the Rescue Mission this evening, a man or a woman, they’re going to be greeted and welcomed, hopefully with a lot of enthusiasm,” Roscoe said.
From there, they have dinner, can attend chapel in the evening, and get hygiene products, a shower and a change of clothes.
Roscoe said the only requirement for the shelter is that people behave, meaning they can’t bring drugs or alcohol to the shelter and can’t threaten others.
“We just want people to cooperate with staff and hopefully cooperate with us to develop a plan to get out of homelessness, but that’s not even required,” Roscoe said.
Boise Rescue Mission also has several programs people can choose to take part in, including a drug and alcohol recovery program, a GED program, job search and preparedness programs and a mental health program.
During the winter there is no time limit on how many days people can stay at one of the rescue mission shelters. In the spring and summer, there is a limit.
“That really depends on the individual, the situation that they’re in and what their plans are for the future. If you’re just looking to come and stay with us and not participate in any recovery program then we’re going to put limits on how long you can stay,” Roscoe said.
He said this is typically a 30-day limit.
The individual can still go to the shelter for meals and a shower, then after an additional 30 days, the individual can go back and stay again.
Interfaith Sanctuary is a low-barrier shelter in Boise.
When a guest first comes to the shelter they can expect what Peterson-Stigers calls a soft welcome.
“We just bring them in and get them comfortable. We do an intake to kind of gently see what it is that we think we can help them with, but there are really no demands immediately. It’s not the best time when someone has finally made it in, they’re not in a good place to be like, “I really want to go back to work” or “I really want to do this,'" she said.
Interfaith Sanctuary also offers several programs for its guests, which allow them to stay at the shelter day and night.
These include Project Wellbeing—a mental health program, Project recovery—an addiction program and a food service training program.
“Sometimes when you’re homeless without a home, the services are fleeting and they don’t connect so there’s a lot of failure. So these programs are specifically designed to hold space as long as necessary and to keep that community intact. Even if you successfully move out of our shelter, you are always a part of these programs,” Peterson-Stigers said.
Corpus Christi House
Corpus Christi house fills a gap by providing resources for people experiencing homelessness during the day.
“We recognize within our downtown corridor here there’s people working to get people out of homelessness, to get them into housing. Our job is to make people’s lives a little easier while they’re on the streets,” Marc Schlegel-Preheim, the Director of Corpus Christi House said.
They provide everything from showers and laundry, to food and coffee and even mail service and phone access.
While Corpus Christi says they’ve been able to keep up with the increasing need because of donations, Interfaith Sanctuary is running out of space.
They had to create space for more beds in January.
“When it became very cold I think that’s when people who had lost their housing realized that whatever they were utilizing as temporary, wasn’t going to work in cold conditions,” Peterson-Stigers said.
They worked with Boise Rescue Mission to get some guests into shelter there. They also turned an outdoor heated tent into a night dorm with army cots.
“And then we turned our recovery classroom, which is a portable classroom on the backside of the property into a woman’s dorm,” Peterson-Stigers said.
Interfaith’s capacity went from 164 people pre-pandemic to 175 people with these improvised dorms and an improvised shelter for families at the Red Lion Hotel.
“Now, 164 doesn’t cover the need, 175 doesn’t actually cover the need but we’re doing the best we can,” Peterson-Stigers said.
Boise Rescue Mission still has capacity, but is concerned about what capacity might look like in the future.
“We’re expecting to see more people as this recession or whatever this is we’re in goes on. With cost of living going so high, fuel costs being so high, we’re very concerned that in the very near future, we’re going to see a big influx of people,” Roscoe said.
As April has learned, anyone can find themselves unhoused at any time.
“I mean it could happen tomorrow, it could happen in a year and you don't even expect it, just done. And having the resources that our wonderful community has to catch you is great," Cuper said.
As we’ve reported Interfaith Sanctuary is currently in the process of getting a permit for a new location, after their current location which is being leased, was sold to someone else.
The Boise Planning and Zoning Commission voted not to approve Interfaith’s application in January.
Boise City Council will hold a hearing on the permit the week of April 18.