States look to Boise to help solve homelessness issue

Homelessness is an issue that’s impacting people all across the United States. A crisis hitting the streets from Portland, Oregon to New York City. Last year, the Point-in-Time Count estimated 553,742 people were homeless on a single night, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. It’s the first increase in the PIT Count since 2010.

The rise in the number has many cities and communities working together to help house their homeless. Some of those communities are turning to the Gem State to help them solve the puzzle.

“We’re using Boise as a model,” said Ted Madden, chief operating officer with the Montana Healthcare Foundation.

Madden studied the research done by Vanessa Fry and Boise State University and the impact housing can have on reducing unnecessary emergency room visits and emergency transportation.

Fry found that Ada County could save almost $3 million a year by implementing a Housing First Program.

In 2017, crews broke ground on the New Path Community Housing Development, which will rapidly house the chronically homeless and help residents work to resolve underlying issues of homelessness. The 40-unit complex will provide onsite case management, healthcare, and other supportive services designed to help residents achieve stability.

The development was made possible through the collaboration of a number of different community partners including Idaho Housing and Finance Association, the city of Boise, Pacific West Builders, Boise City/ Ada County Housing Authorities, The Pacific Companies, Ada County, Pacific West Architecture, Northwest Integrity Housing Co., Thomas Development,  U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, St. Luke’s Health System, Saint Alphonsus Health System, Terry Reilly Health Services, CATCH, Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines, Zions Bank, The Richman Group, American Express, and erstad ARCHITECTS.

“It’s pretty refreshing to show that there are some innovative partnerships or approaches out there,” Madden said.

Group looks to replicate New Path in Montana

Madden learned about Boise’s permanent supportive housing development in 2016 while at a Philanthropy Northwest Conference. The conference allows philanthropists from across the Northwest to connect face-to-face and learn philanthropy’s role in tackling tough economic and social issues, including housing.

“What’s happening in Idaho, we can do in Montana,” he said

A number of organizations and communities his organization partners with are in the process of building their own permanent supportive housing for homeless Montanans.

In November, the Montana Healthcare Foundation brought a number of those organizations and community leaders to Boise to see what’s happening first-hand with Boise’s permanent supportive housing development, New Path Community Housing.

“We are hoping to do a permanent supportive housing unit in Butte. We wanted to see an example of how it works in a community,” Revonda Stordahl with Public Housing of Butte said.

The Montana group was also able to sit down with most of the community partners involved with New Path to learn about the process it took for this development to become a reality.

“It leaves optimism for these five communities from Montana that are starting out the journey and what can be possible,” Madden said.

Many of them learning about the partners involved with the project and roles of those partners to the resources used to build the project and the motivation of all the players to do something. Lessons many of them are taking back with them to Montana.

“The issues are the same in all of these communities. No matter how big or small, it’s a scale of that issue. It’s the same sort of problems that we’re having across the state,” Karen Byrnes with Butte-Silver Bow City-County said. “If we’re able to do this in each of our communities in Montana it will just make our communities so much stronger.”

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