City un­veils new com­plex to com­bat home­less­ness

The Idaho Statesman - - Front Page - BY MICHAEL KATZ [email protected]­hostates­man.com

The New Path Com­mu­nity Hous­ing fa­cil­ity lo­cated on Fairview Av­enue of­fi­cially opened its doors Thurs­day morn­ing, of­fer­ing a new op­tion for the chron­i­cally home­less and, the city of Boise hopes, strik­ing a blow in the on­go­ing fight against a prob­lem that has plagued society.

Stand­ing on what used to be the Twin Dragon restau­rant, New Path will house 40 home­less in­di­vid­u­als free of charge based on need, ac­cord­ing to Char­i­ta­ble As­sis­tance To Com­mu­nity’s Home­less ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Wy­att Schroeder. Need is based on three fac­tors, Schroeder said: long-term home­less­ness, dis­abling con­di­tions and a high util­ity of emer­gency care.

Health ser­vice providers and coun­selors are avail­able on site for res­i­dents, though they are not man­dated. That’s part of New Path’s Hous­ing First mantra, which sub­scribes to the be­lief that hous­ing is the most im­por­tant fac­tor to com­bat­ing home­less­ness, fol­lowed by elim­i­nat­ing sub­stance abuse and treat­ing men­tal health is­sues.

“We’re bring­ing chron­i­cally home­less in­di­vid­u­als in and hav­ing them housed first, and then af­ter they’re housed, bring­ing them some in­ten­sive sup­port­ive ser­vices to try to sta­bi­lize that pop­u­la­tion,” Idaho Hous­ing and Fi­nance As­so­ci­a­tion Pres­i­dent Ger­ald Hunter said.

Sev­eral speak­ers, in­clud­ing Boise Mayor Dave Bi­eter, ad­dressed the me­dia about New Path, which is Idaho’s first Hous­ing First de­vel­op­ment.

“It means so much to get to this point, and all the work and the ef­fort that went into it is re­ally ex­cep­tional,” Bi­eter said.

WHY NOW?

The need for a fa­cil­ity such as New Path be­came ap­par­ent in 2014, when Boise be­gan tick­et­ing and kick­ing out the home­less liv­ing near Rhodes Skate Park un­der the In­ter­state 184 over­pass. Per pre­vi­ous States­man re­port­ing, the home­less didn’t just “go away”; they in­stead mi­grated to Cooper Court, just a lit­tle south of the over­pass, and were even­tu­ally kicked out of there.

In 2015, city lead­ers and lo­cal gov­ern­ment came to the con­sen­sus that the way to end home­less­ness wasn’t to kick peo­ple out of their liv­ing spa­ces; in­stead, it was to pro­vide them with a place to live that si­mul­ta­ne­ously pro­vided vi­tal ser­vices.

The cost of con­struc­tion of New Path was $7.3 mil­lion. The Idaho Hous­ing and Fi­nance As­so­ci­a­tion sold fed­eral tax cred­its to raise $5.83 mil­lion and re­ceived an ad­di­tional $500,000 from a fed­eral pro­gram; Boise con­trib­uted $1 mil­lion.

The build­ing was code­vel­oped by The Pa­cific Com­pa­nies and North­west In­tegrity Hous­ing Com­pany.

Rent and util­ity costs are cov­ered by the Boise City/Ada County Hous­ing Au­thor­ity, which will give nearly $4.5 mil­lion over 15 years, per pre­vi­ous States­man re­port­ing. St. Luke’s Health Sys­tem and Saint Alphonsus Health Sys­tem each gave $100,000 for sup­port­ive ser­vices. Terry Reilly is pro­vid­ing health ser­vices at the site.

A to­tal of 21 part­ners con­trib­uted to New Path Hous­ing.

The cost might seem steep to some, but of­fi­cials have pointed out con­sis­tently that it pales in com­par­i­son to what it costs pro­vid­ing emer­gency ser­vices for those on the street. Bi­eter cited Boise State re­searchers, who de­ter­mined that the home­less pop­u­la­tion costs about $5.3 mil­lion a year in ser­vices (emer­gency, po­lice, court, etc.). New Path, on the other hand, costs about one-quar­ter to one-third of that, with ser­vices in­cluded, Bi­eter said.

“Not only is this a bet­ter way of go­ing about help­ing these folks, but it’s just so much smarter,” Bi­eter said.

WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE?

As of Thurs­day morn­ing, 27 of the 40 oc­cu­pants have moved into their apart­ments at New Path, rent-free. A stan­dard apart­ment in­cludes a bed­room, a bath­room, a liv­ing room, a re­frig­er­a­tor, stoves and ovens, and sev­eral closets.

There is a com­mon room in the lobby that has a tele­vi­sion, and there are a com­puter room and ex­er­cise room on the first floor.

New Path is staffed with a case man­ager, a coun­selor/so­cial worker, two peer sup­port spe­cial­ists, a hous­ing spe­cial­ist and a part-time reg­is­tered nurse, ac­cord­ing to Ken­dra Lutes, case man­ager at Terry Reilly Health Ser­vices.

There is also se­cu­rity that per­forms rounds af­ter 7 p.m. on week­days, en­ter­ing the build­ing once ev­ery hour. On week­ends, se­cu­rity is in the fa­cil­ity from 7 p.m. on Fri­day to 7 a.m. on Sun­day, Lutes said.

The fa­cil­ity it­self is not sub­stance free; in­stead, it is con­sid­ered “harm­re­duc­tion.”

“Il­le­gal drug use would be a vi­o­la­tion of the lease … but we are go­ing to work with peo­ple from a harm-re­duc­tion stand­point, re­ally try­ing to re­duce any harm that would come to them from us­ing any sub­stances,” Lutes said.

DOES IT SOLVE A PROB­LEM?

Hous­ing at New Path is not nec­es­sar­ily con­sid­ered tran­si­tional; the ex­pec­ta­tion is that res­i­dents can move out when they are ready to live in a res­i­dence that is “less ser­vice-de­pen­dent,” Bi­eter said. He termed the duration of each per­son’s stay at New Path as “in­def­i­nite.”

Caleb Roope, the pres­i­dent of The Pa­cific Com­pa­nies and co-de­vel­oper of New Path, said his or­ga­ni­za­tion has built 10,000 af­ford­able-hous­ing units. The build­ing it­self solves only part of the prob­lem, he said.

“The next half of the job is re­ally mak­ing an en­vi­ron­ment for peo­ple to have their lives changed,” Roope said. “And that’s where the heavy bur­den falls on the ser­vice providers … and the man­age­ment com­pany.”

If it proves suc­cess­ful, New Path could be a step to­ward end­ing home­less­ness in Boise, Roope said.

“I do be­lieve that this city has a chance, this county has a chance, to solve the home­less­ness is­sue,” he said. “We do have the re­sources, the man­power, the will and the care enough as a com­mu­nity to get it done.”

DARIN OSWALD [email protected]­hostates­man.com

New Path Com­mu­nity Hous­ing of­fi­cially opened Thurs­day at 2200 W. Fairview Ave., the for­mer site of Twin Dragons restau­rant. The fa­cil­ity was built to pro­vide hous­ing for 40 peo­ple ex­pe­ri­enc­ing chronic home­less­ness and has nearly 30 res­i­dents al­ready.

DARIN OSWALD [email protected]­hostates­man.com

Ger­ald Hunter, pres­i­dent of Idaho Hous­ing and Fi­nance As­so­ci­a­tion, right, joins Boise Mayor David Bi­eter and a team of com­mu­nity part­ners in of­fi­cially open­ing New Path.

DARIN OSWALD [email protected]­hostates­man.com

A stan­dard apart­ment at New Path in­cludes a bed­room, bath­room, liv­ing room, re­frig­er­a­tor, stove and oven, and sev­eral closets.

DARIN OSWALD [email protected]­hostates­man.com

New Path pro­vides typ­i­cal apart­ment ameni­ties in each unit. There is a com­mon room in the lobby that has a tele­vi­sion, and there are a com­puter room and an ex­er­cise room on the first floor.

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