The editorial that was published Tuesday, Dec. 8, is so misleading and full of inaccuracies that it could qualify as journalistic malpractice. The Statesman should do some real investigating instead of simply reprinting the mayor’s spokesman’s version of the events and calling it “truth.”
Cooper Court is a direct product of this mayor’s utter disregard for the poorest Boiseans and his failure to address the issues that cause homelessness. The statement that “beds are available in local shelters” has no basis in reality. I challenge the Editorial Board to visit the shelters at 9 p.m. any night of the week in order to locate the 150 beds that the mayor claims are available for Cooper Court residents. I can assure you, they do not exist.
Monday night, Dec. 7, Interfaith Sanctuary turned away large numbers of homeless persons after filling up its beds and allowing as many people as possible under the fire code to sleep on the floor. The Boise Rescue Mission often uses unsanitary mats in its dining rooms, and closet and hallway areas, for people to sleep. The Rev. Bill Roscoe on Nov. 11 (well before the forced evacuation at Cooper Court) told KIVI that 30 to 40 people have slept on the floor of both the men’s and women’s shelter due to the increased demand.
No one disputes that Cooper Court was not a solution for those who resided in the tents, but putting up signs telling them to leave is not an “alternative living arrangement.” Leave and go where? This postelection surprise was not only unnecessary but, without question, was not, as your editorial states, “carried out in a lawful, orderly and humane way.”
The city’s action against Cooper Court residents under the guise of an “emergency” was not only cruel and inhumane, but its offer of “temporary shelter” also was an illusion. The “temporary shelter” was a cot for 24 hours. It was not a sustainable solution and did nothing to address the systemic causes of homelessness. In fact, it merely exacerbates the problem. The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness states that “the forced dispersal of encampments is not an appropriate solution and can make it more difficult to achieve lasting housing and service outcomes to its inhabitants.”
The 150 people who were dispossessed of their personal belongings and shelter were basically deprived of all of the possessions on which these persons rely upon to live. The so-called “voucher” for $125 per adult for a one-time purchase of used clothing and items was of no use, even if they had a way to get to and from The Salvation Army. Homeless persons have no need for lamps, toys and kitchen dishes and toasters. How were they supposed to get the items back to where they were going to be staying, and where would they store them while they searched for shelter? Perhaps Albertsons could donate a few old shopping carts.
I might suggest that the Statesman’s Editorial Board spend a little time at Corpus Christi and get to know those they judge as not worthy of basic human dignities before offering opinions on what will surely be matters of life and death over the next few months.
Howard A. Belodoff is a Boise attorney who advocates on behalf of the dignity and legal rights of all people and of equal justice.