- Harrison Berry
- Corpus Christi STEP UP Education Center Coordinator Lisa Veaudry addresses people who had been living in Cooper Court the night before the encampment was cleared.
After announcing it had spent nearly $300,000 removing people from the homeless encampment at Cooper Court, the city of Boise may be releasing public records regarding the controversial operation.
A coalition of homelessness advocacy groups is seeking records of the clearing of Cooper Court, the resources and other associated costs of the operation, and records concerning the current safety of the people displaced.
"What we'd like to know is where these dollars were spent and how they were spent. Our main goal is to understand if we had $290,000 to deal with homelessness issues, could we put that to better use?" said Boise/Ada County Homeless Coalition President Peg Richards.
Members of the coalition include the Boise/Ada County Coalition for the Homeless, Living Independence Network Corporation, Intermountain Fair Housing Council, Transform Idaho and ACLU-Idaho. For ACLU-Idaho Education and Outreach Coordinator Jess McCafferty, the campaign is meant to answer lingering questions about how the city removed people living at Cooper Court.
"We were just wondering what the city was doing behind the scenes to get ready for this. We want to see how long it took, precautions—that sort of thing," she said.
The records will come at a steep cost. Public records requests are often fulfilled free of charge, but due to the sensitivity of some of the information, an attorney will have to oversee the process to ensure the Cooper Court request fulfilled in accordance with the law. The coalition has launched a Tilt campaign to raise $1,695 toward the cost of the request. So far, the initiative has raised nearly $1,400 with three days left to gin up funds.
"It's hard to swallow sometimes, but we do understand that the city has a substantial amount of work to do" to fulfill the records request, McCafferty said.
She and Richards said a community dialogue about Cooper Court has been hindered by the city's reluctance to release information about how it planned the operation that removed people, animals and property from the ACHD-owned thoroughfare near the I-184 Connector. They've obtained information from the Department of Health and Welfare and the Ada County Highway District at little or no cost, but Richards said questions remain about the city's involvement and why some stakeholder service providers were excluded from full knowledge of the operation before it took place.
"It was like a big, huge secret mission. There's no transparency or accountability about the eviction process. We think that if you invite all the service providers that legitimately work with homeless people, if you bring them together and you look at it together, is there a way that we could have taken care of the situation together and spent that money more reasonably instead of making it a secret," she said.
McCafferty echoed Richards' sentiment.
"[N]obody knew what was going on. What we want to do is find these records and find out exactly what happened," she said.