Can You Help Boise's Homeless With Much-Needed Winter Gear?

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Left to right: Justin Davis and Karen Shay - HARRISON BERRY
  • Harrison Berry
  • Left to right: Justin Davis and Karen Shay
Thursday, Nov. 13, Boiseans saw the first snowflakes of winter, and while for many in the Treasure Valley that means spending a few minutes shoveling the sidewalk and raiding the closet for a winter jacket, for Boise's homeless, those flakes are a signal of hard times ahead.

At Boise's Corpus Chrsti Day Shelter, men and women crowded in the lobby and main room. Hallways were congested with people sitting in chairs and milling between the rest rooms and other shelter facilities. There are more people in the shelter than usual—especially children—because of the weather.

"The tension sort of rises a little bit," said Marc Schlegel, who works at Corpus Christi. "Piles of kids in here, but people respond quickly if we ask them to change their behavior because nobody wants to be kicked out of here."

In this week's edition of Boise Weekly, readers heard from community leaders saying that as the weather changes, people should be mindful about giving materials directly to Boise's homeless because it accumulates under the I-84 overpass.

"Our hearts are in the right place and everybody has great intentions. People see a need and want to help. Many of the items are donated by a very generous community. But too often, those items are not being used and they're accumulating," said Interfaith Sanctuary Director Jayne Sorels.

But donations made directly to relief organizations like Interfaith Sanctuary and Corpus Christi are flying off the shelves. Nov. 9, St. Mary's Catholic Church donated wool socks and thermal underwear to Corpus Christi, and by Nov. 11, they were gone. Other items in high demand are gloves and waterproof shoes. Currently there are between five and 10 winter coats available, but almost everything else is in short supply. Women-specific clothing like bras and underwear, said Karen Shay, is particularly lacking.

"We're women; we need this stuff," she said. "People don't like to talk about it."

Under the nearby I-84 overpass, Justin Davis has been directing people across the river to Boise State University, where he said people are being hired to clear the Broncos' blue turf and seats in anticipation of Saturday's home game, but "none of them have gloves on," he said.

Davis said that despite pleas by advocates for people to make donations to shelters and other organizations, cars regularly pull up under the overpass with clothing, coffee and sometimes food. Shay told BW that's because because the homeless under the bridge next to the road are more visible than homeless piled into Corpus Christi.

"People roll up with hot coffee and blankets. And everything goes. Most of them stop here. It's easy for them because they see us here," she said.