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Landmark Settlement: $1.6M for Community House

"They still want to fulfill the purposes of Community House, which was to provide for the critical need of housing for women, children and families."

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Howard Belodoff took a long breath.

"Well, it's settled," he told Boise Weekly.

Is it ever. The city of Boise's insurance carrier will soon be cutting a check for more than $1.6 million to Community House, Inc., settling a near-decade-long lawsuit and ending a controversy over how the city chooses to serve its homeless.

"The city basically took everything they had," said Belodoff, the legal eagle extraordinaire who founded Idaho legal Aid and represented Community House in court.

The suit dates all the way back to the 1990s, when the city of Boise owned Community House, the homeless center now known as the River of Life at 13th and River streets. The city turned to Community House Inc. to run the shelter, but in 2004, the city changed its mind, promptly evicted women and children from the facility, and turned over the keys to the Boise Rescue Mission, which turned the shelter into a men-only facility.

A lawsuit followed, which ended in 2012, when a jury ordered the city to pay $1 million to Community House, which had since shrunk to a much smaller organization, operating a Boise duplex for homeless families. The city was also ordered to pay Community House's substantial legal fees. Though the city first indicated that it was appealing the matter, the settlement was quietly crafted and signed by Belodoff and Boise Mayor Dave Bieter prior to approval from the Boise City Council.

"Sometimes you have to wait, wait and wait," said Belodoff, who took another long pause. "And wait and wait. It's not my longest suit by any means, but you can say it was worth the wait."

As for Community House, Belodoff told BW that the organization can only now start putting together plans for what to do with the money.

"They still want to fulfill the purposes of Community House, which was to provide for the critical need of housing for women, children and families," he said. "I'm guessing in the next month or so, they'll decide what to do with the money."