Boise & Garden City

Grant will keep some Boise parks workers, once homeless, employed through this winter

David Williams picks weeds as part of landscape work at Esther Simplot Park on Sept. 5. Williams is part of a group of workers who were once homeless and found jobs with Boise Parks and Recreation through a program co-hosted by Interfaith Sanctuary. The J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation is donating money to the city to keep the program going through the winter and expand it next year.
David Williams picks weeds as part of landscape work at Esther Simplot Park on Sept. 5. Williams is part of a group of workers who were once homeless and found jobs with Boise Parks and Recreation through a program co-hosted by Interfaith Sanctuary. The J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation is donating money to the city to keep the program going through the winter and expand it next year. Idaho Statesman file

The J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation pledged more than $180,000 to keep nine formerly homeless Boise Parks and Recreation employees working through the winter and to hire 14 more homeless workers next year, Parks and Recreation Director Doug Holloway said Thursday.

They’ll do things like shoveling snow from Downtown sidewalks and crosswalks, maintenance at city-owned golf courses and various tasks at Zoo Boise, Idaho Ice World and other facilities, Holloway said.

The city of Boise and Interfaith Sanctuary, a Downtown homeless shelter, worked out a program this spring to hire a few qualified men and women who were staying at Sanctuary. The workers are hired as city employees on a seasonal basis.

When the program began, Holloway said he hoped a couple of the new workers would stay on. Results have been better than he expected. A total of nine workers are still with the city. Some of them have found homes.

Mayor David Bieter highlighted the homeless parks workers program in his State of the City speech Nov. 1.

But their jobs wouldn’t originally have lasted through the winter months. Without jobs, some close to the program worried the parks workers would lose any progress they’ve made in piecing their lives together.

Holloway said Thursday that Albertson Foundation representatives contacted him to ask how the foundation could help keep the program going and expand it. He said the foundation will pay $38,400 to keep the existing nine workers going from November through February. It also pledged $143,360 to pay for two additional seven-person crews starting in the spring.

Holloway said Sanctuary has 18 candidates for parks jobs on a wait list, and it should have more by the spring.

“We’ve got employees that previously were not working and were homeless, and are now finding homes,” he said. “They’re doing excellent work for us, and they need the work now. They want to keep working so they continue to earn an income.”

Interfaith Sanctuary and Boise Parks and Recreation say their program for putting homeless people to work is the first of its kind in the nation.

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