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Tent City Out; Sanctuary In

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Downtown Boise's most progressive--and least legal--homeless shelter is finally up and running. "Sanctuary," located at 1317 W. Jefferson, opened December 26, and has been running at capacity ever since, according to the shelter's organizers. Pam Baldwin with the Idaho Interfaith Alliance, the multi-denominational coalition that spearheaded the creation of Sanctuary after their plans for a tent city dissolved, said her group turned in the application for a conditional use permit to the City of Boise last week, and they hope to have a permit within approximately a month and a half. Only then will Sanctuary no longer be facing potential citation--and nearly as important, only then will they be able to utilize the city's reserves of bunk beds and other supplies.

Proponents describe Sanctuary as a different model of homeless shelter, one where respect for individuals transcends the religious territorialism prevalent at other shelters. Baldwin said the alliance has included homeless representatives in every administrative decision made so far, and the group is in the process of organizing a "residents council" to give a voice to the shelter's guests. "We've heard from people who are volunteering and who are guests that the shelter has a different feeling than anything they've done before," she said.

However, until the shelter is legitimized, Baldwin and donation coordinator Melanie Curtis say, the Alliance remains in dire need of both volunteers, and of bedding supplies like cots, sleeping bags and especially bunk beds. They also need just-add-water grub like instant oatmeal and cup ramen. To volunteer at the shelter, contact volunteer coordinator Mahajayne Sorrells at 368-6772 or organizer@tiaidaho.org. To donate food or other items, drop them off at Second Chance Building Materials, located at 1423 W. Grove St, between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday, or on Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. In the meantime, the group says they are also in the process of organizing meetings with the shelter's neighbors, and will announce dates and locations soon.