City Government

Thoughts On The “Homeless Problem”

A growing concentration of junk vehicles, trash and homeless behind Vista Albertson’s.

The GUARDIAN has thought long and hard on the “homeless problem” and we have concluded its a conundrum with no solution.

We figure answers would be forthcoming if the folks living behind Albertson’s at Vista and Overland and along or near Shoreline were to relocate to Warm Springs or Harrison Blvd. or even Harris Ranch. Those neighbors have affluence, intelligence, and perhaps even compassion. Perhaps they could suggest a solution if they were able to see the problem first hand.

Unlike the “Hoovervilles” of the Great Depression which were essentially an economic issue, the homeless of today are the result of drug and alcohol abuse, mental health issues, life choices, and simply bad luck.

Street camping near Vista and Overland.

We used to have laws against vagrancy and public intoxication which were rightly overturned. In many jurisdictions, the penalty for these “crimes” was OTLT–Ordered to leave town. Police routinely took the unfortunate to the city limits without even a court order.

Today, with changes in public opinion, institutions and jails are not the solution. Throughout the USA cities struggle with “what to do with them.” Boise has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars attempting to outlaw panhandling, camping on the streets and other ordinances intended to remove the downtrodden members of society.

Arrests and tickets only clog the courts. It is absurd to expect a destitute homeless person to appear in court or pay a fine. The “system” just charges them with contempt or failure to appear and the “crimes” just multiply.

The well intended, but not real good plan to concentrate even more homeless into the former Salvation Army warehouse on West State Street is a formula of reverse gentrification destined to fail.

Boise officials have been exploring ideas including purchase of hotels, but past purchases have served only to concentrate sex offenders and convicted felons near parks, schools, and student housing.

Walmart bans overnight parking (camping).

Walmart used to allow the needy and travelers to use their parking lots. But after numerous crimes and a fatal vehicle fire at the store on Overland, they no longer extend the favor.

We are aware of the problem and welcome any solutions from readers.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Bonnie Krupp
    Feb 17, 2021, 4:53 pm

    The use of the Red Lion downtown for about 40+ homeless resulted in a fire. That was hushed up by the city and the cost is unknown. You are right lifestyle is most of the problem.
    Have you recently taken a poll of the homeless asking them questions about drug and alcohol use, health, and what they want from life. WE don’t have the answer because it has to come from them. That is the failure of doing good and suggesting that there is a lack of compassion.

  2. Heinrich Wiebe
    Feb 17, 2021, 7:39 pm

    Great post! For sure it is a problem that does not have clear solutions. Here’s what I notice. A lump sum definition for all those living on the street needs to be changed. Here’s some suggestions to get the ball rolling…

    HOMEFREE>>> Those individuals who are hallucinating that they thoroughly enjoy life on the street and consequently have ZERO intention of changing course or finding a home.

    HOMEBOUND>>> Those who do not like life on the street and aspire for something more and are willing to make some personal changes to get there.

    Another hallucination I notice policy-makers having is the concept of “PAY FOR SUCCESS” or “SOCIAL IMPACT BONDS”. Look these concepts up. It’s important to know that these schemes are conceived by global elites on wall street. Think Goldman Sachs. Little risk for investors. Failure lands on local taxpayers. What’s wild is it creates an incentive for more homelessness because it’s a great investment structure. Magical thinking… Homelessness pays! What could go wrong?

  3. I sure don’t know the answer. During my youth many many years ago my parents took us to Portland for a several spring break trips. Leaving Boise going to Portland was a huge deal for us kids.

    I had to make a trip to Portland a couple of weeks ago. From the airport to the Holiday Inn was just disgusting. Garbage on the road and many tent cities. Right by the airport. I thought we were in a 3rd world county. The uber driver that took us to the hotel had just gotten out of the hospital because he had been beaten up by a group of women when he told them that they could sit in the front seat.

    I remembered a restaurant that was downtown that I loved. Front desk told me they don’t recommend going downtown and they lock all doors at 7:00 PM.

    Is this where Boise is headed?

  4. Careful editor your treading on thin ice in that second paragraph. In the minds of the woke and progressives you may be held accountable if the vagrants take your advice and relocate. /sarc

  5. Concerned Neighbor
    Feb 18, 2021, 9:44 am

    OTLT and public intoxication laws did partly work. What is being done today does not work. So lets combine what worked then and what works now – buy out an old warehouse at the edge of town, fill it with cubes, and call it the Temporary Housing Center, and take the homeless there every time they are found. Add police for security and to go after the drug dealers, social workers, case workers, and process the people. Put the drug users through detox then job training and the severely mentally ill in an institution.

    Being nice hasn’t solved this. Being mean in the past just moved it. Find the middle and be Firm yet Fair.

  6. I agree the solution is not easy therefore it won’t be cheap. The longer we wait the more expensive it will become.
    First I feel that it’s important to identify and separate these types of people into their categories.
    I’ll use the Guardian’s descriptions:
    Drug and alcohol abuse-
    Mental health issues-
    Life choices-
    simply bad luck-
    Each type requires a different course of action.
    Proper training for every law officer will be required to be successful.
    I feel that Idaho should build proper facilities far away from our populated cities in Idaho. I would like to see facilities for Drug abusers to be located near state borders. So if other states have more compassion, they will become a magnet.
    But most importantly we need programs that:
    -Are successful
    -Offers help to those in need
    -Educates for careers
    -Provides well paying, full-time jobs
    -Educates people who want to start their own businesses
    -Prioritizes our citizens
    -Has opportunities for immigrants from outside of Idaho but requires a lot of hard work
    -Is similar to our branches of military where they create a culture of values that include hard work, respect, self motivation, and a sense of one’s worth or importance.

  7. Soylent Green
    Feb 18, 2021, 11:32 am

    Thank goodness the GOP and DNC and MSM are all over this and will solve the conundrum any minute now. They know if they erode constitutional rights and restrict communications on Facebook and email (yes, they are coming for your email next) we will surely resolve it Cuomo said so, it must be true!

    Soylent Green: I saw this movie at it’s release, then lived my life praying to never see it come true. However, we are obviously suffering from a massive leadership failure and the evidence is becoming more and more visible. “The government screws up all it touches” as a good basic rule of thumb. Everyone knows this is true, even those promoting it for personal gain.

    Like all things political the word ‘homeless’ is a mislabeling. This is an out of control mental illness and addiction crisis at the nucleolus. It is a healthcare cost/availability and public education system failure. How many F-35s will pay all medical treatment in the USA for a year? Seriously, I wonder? Or how many government funded NFL stadiums would cover the cost of keeping dropouts in school? The USA, just a few decades ago, defeated Germany and Japan in less than four years then rebuilt the entire world including those enemy nations and their victims. I’m embarrassed to be an American when it appears we are unable to accomplish less challenging tasks without damaging our constitution and financially bankrupting the nation. The homeless camps are your problem in a big way even if not on your street. Think canary in the coal mine.

  8. Let’s flip the script and take a look from the other side. How many of us who appear “successful” are really not, but can pretend we are by living way beyond our means with huge mortgages, multiple car payments, credit card balances, etc.? Subtract all their liabilities from their assets, and many of the so-called “successful” may actually have a negative net worth, less than the homeless who have a net worth of zero!

  9. The legacy media are reporting that real estate has tripled in Ada County, in ten years. I’m grateful to have a house, because I sure couldn’t afford one in 2021!

    As I travel about our community, it seems like encampments and junk repositories have sprung up wherever good-hearted citizens serve the homeless community. The big Idaho Youth Ranch warehouse on Irving apparently has some sort of cheap distribution of collected goods… and a lot of it seems to only make it as far as the side streets, where the really REALLY worthless stuff gets discarded. I can hardly take issue with the neighbors of the proposed homeless facility on West State Street. I’ll confess some NIMBYism, and don’t have a solution to offer.

  10. I very much appreciate the thoughtfulness of the main post, and some of the comments…

    This is a horribly, hideous problem to try to solve. There’s lots to blame, and like everyone has said, no clear answers. I view addiction as a mental illness, and in my experience many of the folks on the street fall into this category. We don’t even come close as a society to providing the help some of these people need.

    I’ll just leave this here: And the king will say to them in reply, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” — Matthew 25:40

  11. Perpetuating a paycheck?
    Feb 19, 2021, 11:33 am

    Appears to be inefficiencies and motive to perpetuate the problem within the nonprofit industry. Can anyone provide the big picture numbers/facts?

    It’s past due we start fresh with a successful approach instead of just easy money fat paychecks at the top in this industry. The people who do resolve the issue should be well rewarded, but not those who just play it along like we do now.

    God Bless!

  12. Are you kidding?
    Feb 19, 2021, 4:43 pm

    There is no fat paycheck at the top of this industry. You sound a bit greedy and suspicious.

    The city does have enforcement mechanisms, and they need to use them if they don’t want these pictures on their campaign literature.

  13. western guy
    Feb 19, 2021, 8:14 pm

    In addition to hte homeless trash and RV’s, this city is littered (like it?) with RV’s, trailers of all sizes and types, parked on lawns, on the streets, etc.

    Why isn’t Code Enforcement enforcing the city codes that are on the books?

    Ask City Hall.

    EDITOR NOTE–Amen! And good idea for future store.

  14. Dissapointed in the public servants
    Feb 19, 2021, 10:13 pm

    If the City had made consistent effort to get affordable housing built along with luxury housing, we would probably have less of a problem now. But the City’s own record shows where they dropped the ball.

    On page 144 in the City’s Five-Year Consolidated Plan 2016-2020, which is a plan required by H.U.D., it says, “From 2011 to 2015, there was no production of new affordable rental housing units in Boise.” They obviously were too busy making plans for a mega library/civic center, a sports stadium, and a white water park for a handful of surfers to use, to the tune of $12+ million dollars.

  15. It is a difficult issue but we can learn from San Fransisco about what not to do, that is flushing money down the toilet for so-called “progressive” programs to help the homeless. SF spends $300M a year to combat homelessness, yet it went up 17% between 2017-2019. SF now has 8,100 homeless people in the City. To illustrate how ineffective their policies are and how they are funneling millions to local “non-profits” for ineffective programs, the cost to house 8,100 people based on available studio apartments or two people sharing a 1-2 bedroom apartment would cost $78M annually. Only in crazy SF does spending more than 3X the cost of the problem to only have the problem grow make sense. The current mayor has decided the solution is… drum roll…. spend more money on the same programs that made no difference.

  16. Certainly, some of the RV street parking is due to folks without permanent, traditional houising.

    BUT, drive down any street, any street, in Boise (socioeconomic level doesn’t matter — except the lower soc econ areas have MORE problems) and you will see: contractor trailers parked on the street, grass, etc., boats, RV’s and trailers parked on same; stacked auto tires, and just plain JUNK.

    City Hall: get this cleaned up. Forget about new development for six months.

  17. I read the other day that Portland was very much in danger of becoming the next Detroit.

    San Francisco funnels good money to one too many private groups who spend it on themselves first. Google contributes to SFs problem by underpaying their employees and expecting them to live in their cars. Look it up if you don’t believe it.

    Most of this is politicians looking to use their job to enrich themselves. Helping someone is never a priority, but helping a developer is always a priority. Looking at Tommy Alquist.

    Finland has solved their homeless problem. Free housing, stipend to live on, etc. They refer to it as Dignity.

    Denmark and Uruguay give away drugs for free. The users have to take the drugs in special clinics so there’s no chance of them taking an overdose or using dirty needles and spreading diseases among each other, there’s always staff ready to help them if they want to get off the drugs, and it’s a lot more effective way to help more people because addicts come into contact with professionals who want to help them. Again Dignity.

    Nobody wants to be homeless or an addict. Though they often end up getting involved in criminality because of their situation, the act of being homeless or an addict is not a crime in itself and the people deserve help like anyone else.

    Plenty of room for the homeless on any Golf Course (especially public ones) in the valley and the LDS Churches parking lots for example. The LDS Church has a net worth of $150-Billion, yet only help 1% if that. Link to the story on the LDS Church.

    Politicians only want to help the well-to-do (donors) and developers. They also have a fundamental misunderstanding of their very own cities. Basically, they are stupid.

  18. You asked for a solution. Meridian had a solution and did a deep clean of their city years ago. It can be done. A task force might help. The department who runs it, finance, has no expertise in code enforcement. It belongs in the police department. A public task force to wake them up and ask for results oriented compensation, like all departments do.

  19. The solution to cleaning up Boise is to task Code Enforcement with just doing their job. Stop the ‘complaint-driven’ approach and start being PROACTIVE. Forget the shiny and new and overdeveloped; focus on the other 95% of the city that needs cleaned up.

    Ignore new animal ordinances…. get health and safety enforced.

  20. Are you kidding?
    Mar 3, 2021, 11:00 am

    It would be appropriate for the city elected to comment about this and take up this issue of homelessness and the imposition on others rights, code enforcement and the places that look (and sometimes smell) like s#*t, and the excess of debris and junk all over the neighborhoods that are being taxed and taxed and taxed. Doesn’t part of that take the city gets belong to the enforcement needs? You bet it does. What say you, mayor and council? What is the plan? If you ignore it it does not go away. Wake up!

  21. The RVs dump human waste all over the place, so it’s not just an eyesore. The city simply MUST disallow these things. They’re gross and will multiply if unchecked.

Get the Guardian by email

Enter your email address: