Boiseans traveling Americana Boulevard have noticed that the number of people under the overpass near the Corpus Christi day shelter has grown dramatically over the summer and in these first days of autumn. At the Oct. 1 Boise/Ada County Homeless Coalition, the situation was described by one member as a "homelessness crisis."
Simply put, it's a crisis that consists of more homeless who need goods and services from stressed organizations designed to service them. According to Corpus Christi House Education Director Lisa Veaudry, between 30 and 50 people have set up permanent camp under the overpass near Rhodes Skate Park and in nearby Cooper Court.
A volunteer conducts a tour of Corpus Christi House
"It's a neighborhood," she said.
So it was opportune that ACLU Legal Director Ritchie Eppink, guest speaker at the meeting, discussed a string those organizations can pull to influence how Housing and Urban Development funds can be directed to potential solutions to the city's growing homelessness problem: Consolidated Planning
and its citizen participation component
"It's a string, and at the other end of that string are funds—and policy," Eppink said.
Boise's consolidated plan is a City Council-approved set of objectives and methods for distributing Housing and Urban Development funds made available to major cities across all 50 states totaling billions of dollars, and public participation, including policy recommendations, is required for those funds to be disbursed to cities and states. (In 2009, Texas was denied some HUD funds for failing to document or meet those public participation standards. Read Gov. Rick Perry's response here
"The point is, we can participate. And, in fact, government is designed for us to participate," said CATCH Executive Director Greg Morris.
Following the coalition meeting, attendees were invited to tour the reopened Corpus Christi House that closed for improvements for much of the summer. Contractors had removed two walls from the building and conducted electrical upgrades, but the day shelter's closure drew public attention to Boise's homelessness problem when they began to loiter and camp nearby. Though the shelter has reopened, many continue to camp in Cooper Court and under the bridge.
The public is invited to an open House for Corpus Christi Wednesday, Oct. 8, from 5-7 p.m. to see what changes have been made to the day shelter and enjoy refreshments.