When officials at Boise City Hall read about a local nonprofit's idea for an "alternative to Cooper Court"—$500-per-unit, one-room shelters on a 1-acre parcel of land—their reaction was, "Yes, but..."
"We understand the spirit that the proposal comes in," said Mike Journee, spokesman for Boise Mayor Dave Bieter, adding a collection of cheap, one-room shelters, "basically just becomes another Cooper Court with a roof."
Cooper Court, the tent city in an alley off Americana Boulevard behind Interfaith Sanctuary, has continued to expand, moving ever closer to the River Street exit of the I-84 Connector. With the growth in tents, Journee said, was a measurable growth of trouble.
"We had a volunteer down there recently who was mugged. He got punched in the face, and all of his money and phone were stolen," said Journee. "We know of bicycle theft and meth rings operating out of there. That area has become the No. 1 call area for fire and police in our city. No. 1."
City officials said they've been meeting privately with a number of area providers for a more permanent solution to homelessness in the city and, in particular, Cooper Court. The first thing they want citizens to know is there are services Cooper Court occupants aren't availing themselves of—like open beds at the Boise Rescue Mission's River of Life men's shelter.
"As early as last week, the Rescue Mission was trying to recruit people to come into their beds," said Journee. "But at the exact same time, there were people handing out tents and sleeping bags. So, they're creating a huge challenge."
Diana Lachiondo, director of Boise Community Partnerships, said a collaboration called "Your Front Door" is close to forming, although the last thing City Hall wanted was for potential partners to first read about the effort in the newspaper.
"But we're close to moving from the stage of this being a concept to names being signed on the dotted line," she said. "We hope to have that by the first quarter of 2016."