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City of Boise Unveils Two-Pronged Housing First Model to Combat Homelessness

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Boise Mayor Dave Bieter announces the Housing First initiative Feb. 9. - GEORGE PRENTICE
  • George Prentice
  • Boise Mayor Dave Bieter announces the Housing First initiative Feb. 9.


Calling Cooper Court—the controversial tent city that was ultimately dismantled by Boise police in December 2015—a "stark example of a model that was unsustainable," Boise Mayor Dave Bieter on Tuesday unveiled a two-pronged approach to combat chronic homelessness.

"Getting people off of the streets and out of the shelters while giving them the opportunity to address the root causes of their homelessness—that's what these projects represent," said Bieter, flanked by representatives of the Boise City/Ada County Housing Authority, CATCH, Terry Reilly Health Service and the Idaho Housing and Finance Association.

With what is being called a "Housing First Single Site" project, the city of Boise and IHFA are teaming up to solicit requests for proposals from area nonprofits and caregivers to build and provide services for 25 to 30 housing units. IHFA has set aside more than $5.5 million in Low Income Housing Tax Credits and the city has committed $1 million in one-time money to fund the project.

"The best alternative is to get someone in a safe, clean place to live first," said Bieter. "Only then can you get to the root causes of homelessness."

Again, Bieter stressed the project is geared to address the chronically homeless, defined as an individual with a disabling condition who has been continuously homeless for a year or more or has had at least four episodes of homelessness in the past three years.

The second prong of the initiative is called a "Housing First Scattered Site," in which up to 15 existing units in different locations are used to provide permanent housing and wraparound services from CATCH Charitable Assistance to Community's Homeless and Terry Reilly.

"This allows us to step out of our traditional health care practices and walk alongside those men and women who are struggling with homelessness," said Terry Reilly CEO Heidi Traylor. "We'll have a team of caregivers out in the community walking hand-in-hand with these men and women."
City of Boise officials compared $5.3 million in current annual costs to assist the chronically homeless compared to the $1.6 million for a Housing First model. - GEORGE PRENTICE
  • George Prentice
  • City of Boise officials compared $5.3 million in current annual costs to assist the chronically homeless compared to the $1.6 million for a Housing First model.

A just-released study compiled by Boise State University analyst Vanessa Fry revealed community costs to help approximately 100 chronically homeless men and women costs more than $5.3 million annually, including $750,000 in costs at the Ada County Jail and $3.8 million for emergency medical services. Alternatively, the Housing First model unveiled Tuesday indicated annual expenses of approximately $1.6 million.

"Creating Housing First options is an investment in breaking this reactive cycle and a step toward proactive efforts that will save money and lives," said Bieter.

City staff pointed to a new website for more details on the initiative.