Henry Krewer, president of the Corpus Christi House board of directors, gave an impromptu tour inside the homeless sanctuary, out of Boise's near triple-digit heat. He pointed to a coffeemaker that dripped what he called "poor man's coffee." The coffee goes down weak but does the trick, he says. A large walk-in closet holds a scant supply of clothes, towels, shampoo and soap. Donations of men's clothing are especially needed, he says. Corpus Christi House was dedicated last month by Boise Mayor Dave Bieter and serves as a homeless day shelter from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. six days a week. You'll find Krewer there on most days.
BW: Sometimes I see homeless people wearing layers of clothes, walking around with backpacks. But it's so hot outside right now.
There's no room in their backpack so they wear [their clothes]. They have to be very selective about what they own. If you can't bag it, you can't own it.
How do they manage in the heat?
I told my daughter I grew up without air conditioning. And she asked, "How did you do it?" And I said I had no choice. And they have no choice.
Where do most of Corpus Christi's guests come from?
Usually the shelters. They take in a good number of homeless people. (The shelters) close at eight o'clock in the morning and they are released. They go all around town. They are at the library and the Greenbelt. There was no one [offering daytime shelter services] and we asked, "What do they really need?" We have laundry and computers. They can come in and get soup. They can come in and look for a job. They can come in and take a shower--things we really take for granted.
What are some of their other needs?
We found there was a need for a detox center because we had people come in intoxicated. There is an underground [homeless] society and it's really difficult to stay sober because they're always around drinks. Then there were people who were ready to do something about their addiction but they didn't have a place to go. There's also a great deal of people with mental illness who are homeless. The biggest detox center we have in Boise is jail and a lot of mentally ill people end up in jail.
We realized we needed to be bigger, especially in the winter. There are a lot of people coming through here. We also realized a GED service is needed and medical services are needed. And some people come in here and haven't eaten for two days and we need something to give them.
There are two types of people who come in here: those who are down and out and come here to get it together, and the chronic homeless. They often have addictions and mental health problems. We try to line them up with services.
Where do guests go after Corpus Christi House closes in the evening?
A lot of the Mission people go back to the Mission or City Lights or Booth. Others go to the various church dinners that they have. So they go to dinner then they go under the trees. Sometimes they'll team up. If they get work together and earn $40, they'll go in on a hotel. But if they didn't get work, they're out on the street or sleeping in cars. It's a hard life. Once you get in, it's hard to get out.
When you're homeless, a lot of the development stops--emotional development, educational. And a lot of it's because you're in survival mode. It's static. Nothing happens while you're homeless. They're all good people, but they're kind of on hold.
A lot of homeless people work. Most of them work. If they have housing and work, then they're on their way. If they just have work, then they're living day to day.