Opinion » Note

Opening the Door to Housing First

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It's practically a holiday tradition that news media outlets report stories related to homelessness when the weather turns cold—often filled with warm sentiments about supporting those in need and reminding those who aren't in (as much) need how thankful they ought to be. Peppered among those stories are dire warnings about the dangers of freezing temperatures and a few inspirational profiles of folks who have risen above adversity.

Those are often great—and important—stories, but the issues surrounding homelessness are perennial. This week, Boise Weekly offers two stories that dig into homelessness both in Boise and elsewhere in the region with an eye toward where we've been, where we are and where we're going with the fight to lessen the number of people who struggle to keep a roof over their head.

On Page 6, BW News Editor George Prentice looks back a year to when Boise police dismantled the Cooper Court tent city that had grown up behind Interfaith Sanctuary. Among the most tense moments in Boise's history of dealing with homelessness, the Cooper Court clearance spurred new action by city officials and advocates. Today, with more optimism and energy behind efforts to secure long-term solutions, the first concrete steps have been taken to establish a single-site, permanent housing model to serve the homeless in Boise.

Referred to as "Housing First," the model is certainly a first for Boise, but not for Salt Lake City. Our sister alternative newspaper Salt Lake City Weekly put Housing First under the microscope in a November report, which we republish on Page 8.

As might be expected, City Weekly found Housing First has achieved mixed results: while it has been a boon for many of Salt Lake's homeless, lack of funding has led to big holes in the safety net. What's more, providing a safe and healthy environment for residents at the city's Palmer Court housing center has turned out to be a big headache for first responders, especially police.

While Salt Lake City's experience has been its own, Boise would do well to consider some of the challenges that have come with Housing First—lest our optimism get the better of us.

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