Guest Opinions

Boise’s camping ordinance is not a solution to homelessness

There is a lot of conversation around the camping ordinance that the city of Boise has chosen to take to the U.S. Supreme Court. This conversation has mostly been one sided on why this is the best thing to do for our community.

This ordinance is not designed to solve the real problems that are significant causes of homelessness in our city; lack of affordable housing, no restrictions on rent increases, minimum wage at $7.25 per hour (not a livable wage), lack of access to mental health and addiction treatment. Together we can help improve these issues with creative collaborations, outreach, advocacy and compassion.

The camping ordinance places the blame on our most vulnerable citizens and creates messaging that is unkind. Because of the work we do at Interfaith Sanctuary we know firsthand how much our community wants to be part of the solution. Needs that come up at the shelter are immediately supported with one call out for help.

Interfaith Sanctuary knows we can’t do this work alone so we reach out and ask for help when needed and we see our community respond with support, ideas, solutions and love. The camping ordinance is not a solution and will not stop people from falling into homelessness. Real solutions, connection with our homeless community and partnerships to help those out on the streets is what Boise needs.

There has been a proposal written by Interfaith Sanctuary and presented to The City of Boise that proposes creating an Interfaith Sanctuary outreach team to help assist our police when they come across someone sleeping outside. The number of homeless sleeping outside in our city, due in part to very supportive shelters like Interfaith and Boise Rescue Mission Ministries is between 1 and 5.

Creating outreach instead of ordinances would allow us to wrap support around these individuals, learn why they are choosing to sleep outside and help them overcome their barriers to shelter.

An important thing to know about our homeless guests is on any given night, even if there is room at a shelter, a person may not be allowed inside based on behavioral issues often due to mental health. Sometimes a night out is the best choice to help someone who’s unable to manage the shelter behavior requirements. This is because they are sick, not because they are bad.

I know there are many opinions out there about our homeless population and what they should be doing. Before you assume you know them please get to know their stories and then decide how you can help, not hurt!

Jodi Peterson-Stigers is the executive director of Interfaith Sanctuary Shelter in Boise.
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