City Government

Homeless-No Solution, No End

Homeless have decided to sue
These folks haven’t a place to sleep
From he City we get nary a peep
It’s objectionable to some
No matter where from
But there’s a difference
Between Homeless and Bum

As we travel around Boise these days, it seems like every corner–and every supermarket–has a homeless person or team panhandling. It is a problem that won’t go away soon.
As the economy continues to founder, we can anticipate more “Hoovervilles”–those hobo villages of the 1930’s depression. The only difference is they have moved to urban areas for the most part. Wal-Mart once allowed overnighters in remote areas of parking lots, but they no longer permit the practice.

Boise City Council clarified the city “Camping” law Tuesday saying it is illegal to use “any public property as a residence.” It did nothing to solve the underlying problem.

Coppers have a little wiggle room when they run across homeless people sleeping in their cars and campers on city streets…what constitutes residence? Apart from the sanitation and litter issues, businesses feel threatened with disheveled people and vehicles parked near their establishments.

If the coppers write tickets, impound cars, or arrest these unfortunate souls it serves only to make them more destitute paying fines, towing fees, and storage bills which they can ill afford. On the other hand, when mothers complain of homeless people in parks making them “uncomfortable” and often as not breaking some minor rule, they are forced to act.

Reports from homeless people we have talked to say for the most part the cops are cool. One guy told us of a copper giving him a push in his car which had stalled in the street last Christmas and later checked on his welfare where he had parked (camped).

There are charity based homeless shelters in the River Street area of the city, but there is only so much they can offer. Some people are homeless by choice while others suffer from substance abuse, mental and physical disabilities, and just plain bad luck.

We certainly don’t know the solution, but it is a growing problem that can’t be solved by passing more laws.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. I’m sure most citizens are sympathetic to the plight of those who are homeless through no fault of their own. Perhaps not so much for those who have elected the “homeless lifestyle.” (Not having bills, schedules, obligations definitely has some attraction, doesn’t it? I can understand why some folks choose that way of life. “Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.”)

    I imagine the homeless numbers are being swelled mostly by the “involuntarily homeless.” Many folks are living on the edge, and unemployment would push ’em (us) right over.

    What to do?

    We can contribute, both our time and our means, to the local charities that step up and help with the problem. (“Scouting for Food” is this Saturday! The Foodbank, Boise Rescue Mission and other private entities can always use help.)

    The taxpayers obviously pick up part of the tab. Apparently the city has some kind of “motel voucher” program. Frankly, the folks who are able to work, and who receive taxpayer assistance, should be willing to work, whether it be picking up litter, pulling goatheads, sorting cans at the foodbank, providing daycare… it’s not like there’s nothing to do.

    (All of that stuff seems like “finger in the dike,” though. I’m not sure what can be done, until there’s some economic upturn. Not sure if that’ll happen, since our “representatives” continue to spend our kids’ and grandkids’ money like there’s no tomorrow. Grapes of Wrath, here we come!)

  2. Flyonthewall
    Nov 11, 2009, 11:08 am

    Back in the day, transients could voluntarily check themselves into the local jail and get in out of the cold for a night. They would get booked in and checked for warrnats and other stuff but for the most part they spent the night out of the cold got a hot meal and were on their way the next day.

    Homeless shelters make more sense than new jails. President Reagan shut down many of the safety net facilities when he was president and kicked a lot of these people out on the street in about 1986 if I recall this correctly.

    There are a lot of people who just don’t fit anywhere else but in a shelter. Now they are taking up space in our jails and prisons at a much higher cost to the 50 states and not the federal government.

  3. Justin Beller
    Nov 11, 2009, 11:37 am

    I appreciate your take on this issue.

    In a report from KTVB (, the city claims they give enough money to the shelter to expand services, so my question is what’s happening to the money at the shelters?

    If it’s mismanagement of funds or ineptitude, I want to know. It’s my tax dollars going toward this. Obviously it’s not working.

  4. Rod in SE Boise
    Nov 11, 2009, 11:47 am

    The term “Hoovervilles” should forever be changed to “Bushvilles”.

  5. People who have adopted homelessness as a lifestyle choice should be left to fend for themselves. Not our problem.

    Those truly in need are already being being fairly well accommodated IF they want to integrate in the system provided. If they don’t, no sympathy for them. In 2007 the city of Boise identified 350 people as ‘chronically homeless’ with around 2000 ‘occasionally homeless’. Obviously that number has grown since last count, but in reality probably not that much as a whole. There are around 700 beds available in shelters, plus a motel voucher program already in place. This is not mentioning numerous other outreach programs citywide.

    Again, I believe in helping those who truly need it, but enabling – no way.

  6. Rod: I know you hate Bush. But, Obama is in power now. You might do well to acknowledge that reality, just as the rest of us will acknowledge it next year.
    The only solution is to stop demonizing jobs, as so many in this generation seem to like to do. There is no such thing as a green job, but most Americans are just tickled pink at the thought. I am for mining and sustainable yield management in forests. I’m for farming our farmlands instead of building houses on them and busing in immigrants to take those so-called jobs that Americans will not do. I’m for making things in factories and selling them to other countries. I am from a family that narrowly survived the horrors of the Grapes of Wrath. It makes me sick to see contemporary FDRs push us toward the brink of total economic disaster. Rod, FDR continued what Hoover started.

  7. The term “Hoovervilles” should forever be changed to “Bushvilles”.

    Rod in SE Boise must be a mere youth; he seems to think we all lived in Utopian bliss before Bush came along and spoilt everything!

    A number of years ago, we were driving to the bakery thrift store. (A regular practice, even before Bush!) A fella sat on the corner a block or so away with his “will work for food” sign. I thought I’d give my kids an object lesson in sharing, and instead of giving him money-for-nothing (which I’m sure is what he really wanted), we bought an extra loaf of bread and took it back to him. He expressed gratitude and we drove away, feeling better for having reached out. By chance, we drove by the same corner a couple hours later; the man and the sign were gone; the loaf of bread sat unopened on the corner. We took it to the park and fed the duckies. I’m guessing the man didn’t starve or freeze to death.

  8. With this economy, there but for the Grace of God go I.

    Editor: Very well done! Thank you for speaking up for the voiceless.

    Happy Veterans Day!

  9. I think the cops should and do use discretion. There is a difference between some one who is down on thier luck and just getting by and the professional homeless person. Citizens (who pay taxes)have a right to use the parks, sidewalks and green belt without being subject to drunks and bum camps. Ever been in one of the parks where a homeless person is so drunk they have peed themselves or harrass your family? Those are the ones who get tickets and arrested. The family who lost thier home from job loss etc. are usually given a warning or assisted into a shelter. Some shelters dont take drunks, so if you dont want to sleep out side then go to AA

  10. Maybe it is because it is turning colder, but there is nothing new in this discussion. The BPD volunteer greenbelt patrol has been identifying and evicting transient camping in parks and down by the river for many years. There has been a citizen bike patrol looking for drunks,questionable looking and acting people etc., on the greenbelt, since the two murders years ago. The people on the corners asking for money are referred to as “signers” in the larger cities and many of them treat it as their job. I still believe there is no reason for anyone who needs, and wants help, not to receive it. I have found that the people on the river are drunks, druggies and mentally unbalanced. Or they are frequenting the “loop”. Either way, they don’t deserve any help.”Just move along please”

  11. Rod in SE Boise
    Nov 11, 2009, 8:36 pm

    Lucas Baumbach said: “Rod, FDR continued what Hoover started.”

    What??? Did you read that in the Glen Beck/Rush Limbaugh/Bill O’Reilly U. S. History Book? And no, I don’t hate Bush, just his policies and his incompetent governance of this country.

    Citizens of Boise!! Read what this man wrote!!! He ran for city council. He would have turned the Boise Hole into a mine and strip mined the foothills!!!

    Bikeboy said: “Rod in SE Boise must be a mere youth; he seems to think we all lived in Utopian bliss before Bush came along and spoilt everything!”

    Well, no, I’m a Vietnam Vet and have been around the block more than a few times. What I meant was that Obama inherited the current dismal situation from Bush and seems to be trying to change the ethic in this country to one that is more friendly to people and less friendly to corporations. (Good luck with that Mr. President, even the Democrats in Congress are lackeys of the insurance industry — with regard to the current debate on health insurance.) You need not embellish what I wrote using your imagination.

  12. Geez, Rod! With all that vitriol you seem to be carrying around since your “in country” experience,you should probably share some of the “herb” you must have discovered! When you take a break from the fog, you will realize that Bush, Clinton, Obama are equally guilty of selling us out. One is no better, or worse, than the other.
    Oh! And to Mr. Baumbach? Get your buddy Dunham and get your damn campaign signs picked up! It is definitely a lack of class to leave them after the election!

  13. I saw the same faces holding the same signs a few years ago when even the teenagers were being forced to work extra shifts. Does the editor have any hard numbers showing the increasing street people population… I think there must be an increase, but a bunch of these folks are old pros. Gonna get cold soon. Bunch of bus tickets to LasVegas is a cheap solution.

  14. Rod in SE Boise,

    I remember the election 5 years ago where one of your fellow Vietnam Veterans Testified before Congress how our troops did, lets just say terrible things to the Vietnamese people. Even veterans that served with him call this man a lair.

    I served 4 years in the Marine Corps and was stationed at Camp Pendleton when the US brought the Vietnamese refuges there; I helped with their aid before I was discharged.

    We can all tell stories but I would rather see job growth, utilizing our natural resources including oil and also cutting taxes.

    I believe these actions would grow our economy and create jobs that are needed to help these homeless people out. So I’m with Lucas.

  15. Gee Rod, all those trips “around the block” and all you can come up with is “Bush bad, Obama good”? The plundering of our financial system, and subsequent damage to our economy is the result of GREED! and the greedy were welcome at the trough by both parties. Ask GM or AIG if they think Obama is anti-corporate.

  16. ahh, we can always count on Wunderlich B. for his revisionist history.

    “FDR continued what Hoover started”

    Hoover Republican (and ironically enough since W.B. mentioned mining, a mining engineer) FDR Democrat.

    Maybe Wunderlich B. is carrying on for his grandpappy’s discontent because dear ‘ol grandpappy wasn’t hired on the CCC for the Hoover Dam project. WAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!

  17. You better take a look again at that “homeless” person on the corner. If you look enough times you will see the same ones working the same corners. I moved here 6 years ago and can’t believe the panhandling profession here. If it’s not a god bless sign they stand there with props i.e. gas can or a dog. Must be a nice tax free business.

  18. Funny you all are still talking about FDR and such… not the same problem today… We don’t have a big war build up coming to bring the jobs back. This problem started to show in the 1970’s, then the personal computer and electronics revolution gave us jobs for about 15 years more. Globolization gave those jobs to cheaper labor. So now we are SOL without a visonary concept/product to sell to the world…OR cheaper labor. No need for the middle-class without a new vision. Our fast talking finger waving leadership (both R & D) is speading funny money around to shore up the vote form the next two elections… it’s not a long term fix. US dollar is worth 0.66 Euro today as a result. Not even your govenment pension will be safe, so don’t think you’re not involved.

  19. Another idea would be to reduce our efforts supporting globolization… but that won’t happen until our leaders see America as a higher priority than the rest of the world. We have an oversized navy. Why? Because the peace it brings to the world supports globolization thus providing a safe place for our jobs to be outsourced to. I think our government needs to spend those efforts to bring peace to our worst neighborhoods not outsourcing our jobs.

  20. Rod in SE Boise
    Nov 12, 2009, 3:29 pm

    To answer my critics: I’m not really a fan of Clinton, Carter, or even Obama. I’m not a big fan of Democrats or Republicans, either; but you have to admit that G. W. Bush has set the standard when it comes to bad presidents. He did more harm to our country than all the other presidents combined. He did more to start the current depression than anyone else, and his way of getting us out of it was to throw money at the banks. That is like reverse Robin Hood, stealing from the poor to give to the rich. Indeed that is what his entire presidency was about.

    I only mentioned Vietnam because Bikeboy questioned my age, and for no other reason. It’s not relevant to a discussion of homelessness or which president caused the current depression. And I didn’t tell any Vietnam stories.

  21. You got it right Rod. No worries.

    But Kappa TA gets to the heart of the matter. We’re all diminished when those around us are floundering.

  22. Come on folks…we all know there is no homeless problem when democrats are in charge…they completely disappear from the media and only reappear as a problem when republicans win…

  23. “The term “Hoovervilles” should forever be changed to “Bushvilles”.”

    Does anyone know when ‘Hoovervilles’ fretty much went away? When Hoover turned the army on the squatters on the National Mall demanding the government live up to the promises they made to WWI soldiers that the feds had sort of forgotten (not unlike the old promise of free health care forever for the member and his family that became a non promise a decade ago)

  24. sam the sham
    Nov 16, 2009, 3:12 am

    How do we keep people in their homes? We already know that is less expensive to keep someone in their home/apartment than to get them back into a residence.
    Back in the days before Ronald became president there were parachutes to keep people safe. But we watched them dismantled during his presidency. It was a terrible thing to watch. And now how does a society undo such a mess?

  25. Sam, would you share those “parachutes” that Reagan dismantled?

  26. I don’t think there is much difference between democrats and republicans when it comes to taking advantage of the american people and bungling various policy decisions. The Bush talk is getting a little old though. We get it, both sides need to stop with the talking point regurgitation.

    My thoughts:

    Helping those in need, short term, who have shown a willingness to help themselves or are unable to help themselves due to a verifiable emergency such as job loss or unforseeable life change = good.

    Helping those in need who have squandered previous attempts at getting back on their feet and have not shown commitment or a desire to improve their situation = bad.

    In most cases, those people that are truly in need are already being helped.

    Unfortunately, some of those we commonly see downtown take advantage of those trying to help them. The dollar or two you give them in kindness is immiediately spent on alcohol. They then get smashed and are later causing problems which cause them to be housed on our dime in the jail.

    Two different animals.

  27. I used to just stop and give people money when they were down and out. God knows I used to be there. Now I stop, take a moment and park my car. I give them job leads. Most of the people I talk to don’t even have paper and pencil, that tells me alot. I used to be homeless and I don’t know any homeless support facilitys that wouldn’t be happy to give paper and pencil for job leads. I’ll never forget “the 10th girl” that I talked to one day, though. I call her ” the 10th girl” cause I had already talked to 9 people that I could tell were con artists. This girl had about 8 months sober and she really seemed like she was doing her very best in life. She was a bit homely, so needless to say, she had no one taking care of her.
    Be careful out there, but please, keep an eye out for the “10th” person.
    christmas carol

  28. Rod in SE Boise. Hang in there! Not everyone is against you.

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