BOISE, Idaho — "Can we be the first city in America to end family homelessness?" This-- a question posed by Mayor Dave Bieter at his State of the City Address-- but with few details to back up how.
The game plan for that, however, is now coming into focus, with collaborated efforts by city and county leaders. 6 On Your Side's Madeline White attended a Housing and Homelessness Summit at JUMP in Boise on Wednesday to learn more.
The way one city representative described it is they are no longer reaching for the low-hanging fruits, trying independently to house everyone who is homeless, but rather, they're now collectively aiming for those high-hanging fruits-- which in this case, he says-- are the families that are experiencing homelessness in Boise and Ada County.
Mayor Bieter first brought the idea forward in his state of the city address.
"$6,000 dollars is the difference between a child sleeping in a shelter, or having their own bed at night," said Mayor Dave Bieter.
Now, reps from the city of Boise and Ada County are convening on the topic-- because the statistics are alarming.
"Last year alone, 819 students in the schools experienced homelessness," said Lisa Roberts, Deputy Superintendent of Schools, Boise School District. For context, Boise School District has roughly 25,000 students.
"Surely, if you know children in our school district, they had classmates who were homeless," said Roberts.
When it comes to homelessness, housing is an especially urgent need for kids-- and data proves it. For one, it can be a learning barrier.
"There's a direct correlation between students who are homeless, and those who are below grade level," said Roberts.
Plus, it can cause mobility issues, sometimes leading to truancy.
Also, studies show homelessness is often tied to trauma and behavioral challenges.
But with government partnerships with 30 local stakeholders in recent months-- the topic of ending family homelessness in boise - is becoming an aligned target. A city director says 178 known families in ada county are currently experiencing homelessness.
"We have a manageable amount, and we believe, with everybody pitching in, we can effectively, over some years, eliminate family homelessness," said Bieter.
- They say they'll see to it that families take priority for services, especially those with kids under 5.
- They said they'd try to prevent families from getting evicted by helping families in need pay their rent.
- They said they'll try to keep connecting families who are fleeing domestic violence with local resources.
- Still, city reps maintain the importance of building more supportive housing.
"Supportive housing works. Just like we see at new path, across all of our program, those that get supportive housing intervention, 80% of them are still housed a year later," said Wyatt Schroeder, Director of Community Partnerships at the City of Boise.
"First projects are the toughest, but once you've done one, it's so much easier to do it again-- something similar. And we want it all over town, all over the valley," said Bieter.
But other than the above, Bieter said they're relying on philanthropy.
"If we focus resources right now, we have a chance to do what no community has," said Bieter.
Ada County Commissioner Diana Lachiondo said county representatives will begin interviewing philanthropists in Boise in the coming months to gauge interest in the project to end family homelessness. If that interest does exist, she says the county will dedicate half a million dollars from its budget toward this cause.