Last winter the homeless community at Cooper Court was forced to move just before the coldest months of the year. The project served to make the homeless less visible but did nothing in terms of the systemic issue of Boise’s homeless as they were offered resources already available to them. I believe we should start treating homelessness as the systemic issue that it is. While there is movement on this front, there is still a lot that can be learned from some of our local nonprofits and other city models. There are many social and economic benefits to better management of our homeless communities. For example:
- Housing First and Modeling Success – Many shelters turn down individuals due to substance use or mental health symptoms leaving people with nowhere to go. The housing first model slowly being adopted by our community is evidence-based and understands that housing stability is necessary before other psychosocial issues can be managed by individuals. Utah took the housing first option to the extreme and reduced homelessness by 91%. We can learn from utilizing techniques and programs that they used to completely end homelessness in our community, we must think big!
- Systematic Change and Education – It is essential for Boise residents to understand the systemic reasons for homelessness for effective change and economic growth to occur. Programs that benefit our homeless population benefit us all.
- Building From Strong Partnerships and Funding Positive Change – The Department of Veterans Affairs along with a handful of nonprofits in Boise are utilizing the housing first philosophy. As a city, we should partner with these agencies to build a stronger solution.