In the wake of a recent public hearing when a majority of speakers, many of them advocates for the homeless, pushed back against a proposed City of Boise effort to enforce tighter panhandling measures, the Aug. 7 session of the Boise/Ada County Coalition for the Homeless again put the issue of being homeless in Boise on the political front burner.
Meeting at the Concordia University School of Law, the coalition played host to Ada County Judge Ronald Wilper, attorney Andy Thomas with Idaho Legal Aid and Monica Hopkins, Executive Director of the ACLU of Idaho.
Wilper pointed to what he called "problem-solving courts" as part of the solution for dealing with homeless individuals who may also be struggling with mental illness or recovering from drug addiction.
“The future of criminal justice is problem-solving courts,” he said.
Thomas said it was ultimately important for service providers and shelter owners to be well-versed on the Fair Housing Act.
“If you are a service provider of homeless people, you need to understand the Fair Housing Act applies to you, which means you cannot discriminate based on race, color, gender, religion, or familial status,” said Thomas. “You have to be looking for proactive solutions to these issues.”
Hopkins said her organization is always looking at the criminal justice system.
“One of the ways [the ACLU] wants to alleviate the burden from the system is to actually look at sentences and ordinances that flood the system with solutions for a population that can’t pay fees and ends up incarcerated,” she said.
Ultimately, coalition members were reminded that they must remain vocal of the issue of homelessness and to remind public officials that Boiseans are paying attention.