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Homeless Numbers Down

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Fewer homeless people sought out services from the Boise Rescue Mission in 2007 than the previous year, although the numbers are close.

That's the news from Rev. Bill Roscoe, executive director of the downtown Boise shelter, although an initial report said numbers were up dramatically. The error, pointed out on Monday, was attributed to a calculation error in an Excel document. Unfortunately, it was too late for many media outlets (including BW) who reported a dramatic increase in use.

Mission statistics show a decrease of roughly 6,000 meals served although individuals spent roughly 100 more nights of shelter in 2007.

In a news release, Roscoe said the increase was due to the growth of alcohol and substance abuse in the Treasure Valley and the lack of available treatment for people with mental illness.

Growth is also a factor, he said.

"When you have as many people coming into any geographic area as we have had into the valley, a certain number of those people are going to have problems living independently," he said in a prepared statement.

There is a difference between what he called "chronically homeless" people and others who are more incidental users of homeless services.

Of the total homeless population in Ada County, chronically homeless people represent a small percentage, an estimated 10 percent or 300-350.

The good news, he said, is that shelter services to women and children grew at a slower rate. The City Light Home for Women and Children grew by roughly 10 percent from 2006 to 2007. That's in contrast to the 2005-2006 growth, Roscoe said, which was about 84 percent.

Other good news came from the positive numbers of men who found work through Mission programs and actually left the shelter, Roscoe said.

Roscoe thinks that the new facility on River Street has been a major factor in the success of the Work Search program.

"Before we moved to River Street, men were all crammed into one big dorm," he said. "Needless to say, we offer a much better environment than ever before for homeless men."

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