Many of those who were living in Boise’s Cooper Court tent city have said they did not want to stay, or could not stay, at local shelters for myriad reasons. But if all those folks did opt to come indoors, would there be enough room at local shelters?
The answer seems to be yes, to a degree. Shelters could hold everyone, managers say, but some might not get beds. It already is common for local shelters to put people on mats on the floor during the busy winter months.
“We’re not going to turn anyone away,” said the Rev. Bill Roscoe, director of the Boise Rescue Mission. “If people show up who need a place to stay, we’re going to find a place for them.”
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COOPER COURT’S NUMBERS
City officials have said about 135 people were living at the now-dismantled tent city at the edge of Downtown. That count came from Boise police bike officers, city spokesman Mike Journee said. Police tallied 85 tents and other shelter structures made of pallets, tarps, blankets and other items.
Roscoe believes that estimate does not reflect the actual number of people who bedded down there each night.
“People came and went from there during the day,” Roscoe said. “Sometimes during the day, there would be 150. But when the sun set, people would leave.”
Boise Rescue Mission staff believe the number of people who spent nights at Cooper Court was actually closer to 50. They say 25 people from the tent city have come to the mission’s two shelters. Interfaith Sanctuary officials said they have seen a handful of new faces each night since last week.
BED COUNTS NOT WHOLE STORY
The Boise Rescue Mission operates River of Life, for men only, and City Light Home for Women & Children.
River of Life has 155 beds for the general population, plus 19 beds designated for veterans and another 20 for those participating in the New Life Program (drug and alcohol addiction recovery).
When they have “overflow” — more people than beds — shelter staff put mats down on the dining room floor. They can accommodate up to 80 men in there.
“It may sound to people that it’s not good,” Roscoe said. “They’re not sleeping on the floor. They’re on a 3-inch foam mat with a sheet.”
Roscoe said the men’s shelter has used the dining room floor this year, with up to 15 sleeping there. There are two other rooms where mats could be put down in a pinch, he said.
“Typically in the summer, we don’t see anyone on the dining room floor,” he said. “But once the weather gets cold, they come in and take up bed space.”
City Light has 98 beds, and there’s room for 40 women and children to sleep on the dining room floor. That doesn’t happen very often, Roscoe said.
Men continue to make up the majority of Boise’s homeless population, but women and children represent a much higher percentage than a decade ago, he said. A decade ago, men made up 75 percent to 80 percent of overnight stays at the Boise Rescue Mission. Now they represent about 60 percent.
FLEXIBLE DORM SPACE
Interfaith Sanctuary houses single women, single men and families all under one roof — 165 beds in all at the facility on River Street. Guests are assigned to beds in specific dorms based on their gender and family status.
Sometimes more people in one of those groups show up than there are beds in that particular dorm, according to director Jayne Sorrels and shelter staff.
For example, there were a dozen more men who showed up at the shelter at 6 p.m. Wednesday than beds in the men’s dorm. Also, there were a half-dozen more women than beds available in the women’s dorm.
As it happened, one of the dorms for families was empty, so the people seeking beds were able to use that room, as well as an observation room that’s usually the sleeping quarters for those who are intoxicated or under the influence of drugs.
The bottom line, officials said, is that no one had to be turned away.