Thursday, January 20, 2022

Homelessness in Boise

There is a housing crisis in Boise.  (Duh!)  As the outside world has taken notice of our little desert oasis, Idaho, and particularly the Boise metro area and a couple other population centers, have become home for a bunch of newcomers.  The influx has outpaced home construction.

As a lifelong resident of Boise, I'm not happy about it.  Much of what I loved about "growing up Boise" is long gone, and will never return.  (Boise had around 35,000 residents when I got here in 1953.  Now the metro area has 422,000 residents.  That changes things.  Of course, the people who arrived in 2021, or even 2000, can't appreciate that change.)  But - I digress.

As house payments and rents have gone from $500/month to $2500/month, of course those with the lowest incomes have been disproportionately affected.  The homeless population has probably increased even faster than the general population.  It's a tough situation.

A couple observations... and this will come across as mean-spirited and non-charitable, I'm sure, but I'm confident it reflects the sentiments of many good-hearted people who I share a community with.

Interfaith Sanctuary, a group that provides shelter and other necessities to the local homeless population, is located off of 16th Street.  Coincidentally or not, there are several other homeless support storefronts in the same area.  The Sanctuary operators recently wanted to expand into a larger facility, several miles away and at the edge of a residential neighborhood.  It turned into a contentious issue, with residents of the area opposing it, and supporters accusing the neighbors of "NIMBY-ism."

Unfortunately, I totally understand the NIMBY sentiments.  After bicycling past the epicenter of homeless life for 20+ years, on my way home from work, I would NOT want to move that situation to my neighborhood!  I realize that a sizeable percentage of the homeless population has mental health and/or substance-abuse issues, but still... they need to take some ownership of their situation!  THEY need to realize that when their living area is quickly turned into a hellhole strewn with trash and detritus, civilized people look at that and are repelled!  Even young children are taught to clean up behind themselves; is there something that prevents homeless people from picking up their trash?

Another situation that rubs people wrong... I regularly ride past a busy intersection, not far from my home.  Often there is an able-bodied fella... from all outward appearances he looks to be in the prime of his work-for-a-living years... standing on the corner with his crude cardboard sign: "ANYTHING HELPS - GOD BLESS."  The cruel irony is that he stands on a corner with TWO fast-food outlets, and both have a sign: NOW HIRING.  One offers $14 to start; the other $15.  Now I don't know that fella, but I can't help but wonder why he can't contribute something to society - and get paid for it! - rather than sponging off hard-working people who are struggling themselves!

Finally... do cities that are particularly welcoming and hospitable to homeless people, attract MORE homeless people from cities that aren't so hospitable?

Legend has it that back in the day, hobos would carve a notch on the fence-post of homes that offered food and comfort to hard-luck travelers.  Those who came behind would see the notch, and would likely knock on that door, with the expectation of being fed.  If Boise offers "three hots and a cot, no questions asked" for an indefinite period, will the word get out to the homeless in Fruitland, or Twin Falls, or Pocatello, or Ogden or Kennewick... and more homeless will be showing up on inbound Greyhounds?  That might be an uncomfortable question... but I believe it's a reality that must be factored in.

The church I belong to - the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints - is well-recognized for its expansive welfare program, that provides assistance to members and otherwise.  The Church emphasizes SELF-RELIANCE; it is always hoped and expected that assistance is a temporary situation, to help somebody get back on his or her feet.  The Church supports "Life - NOT Lifestyle."  I try to generously support the Church's efforts by donating money and time, because I have much more confidence in the administration of their ("our") program, than the government welfare program.  More about Church welfare can be read HERE .

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