There has been much said and written about the so-called “homeless encampment” in Boise. As a person with 30 years of service to homeless, addicted and hurting people, I’d like to share my opinion.
First, as CEO of the Boise Rescue Mission, I object to being called a “high-barrier shelter” where people are “turned away because of intoxication or use of narcotics.” I think it is a sad commentary on society when an emergency shelter that provides food, shelter, clothing and the other necessities of life is considered a “high barrier” shelter because it won’t serve guests who are drunk, high on drugs, threatening to others or otherwise engage in actions that would prevent the shelter from being a safe and supportive environment for all guests.
The Boise Rescue Mission is not a “high-barrier” shelter. Far from it. Anyone who is willing to follow simple rules of conduct, respecting others and will behave as a responsible adult should behave, will find a warm welcome at the Rescue Mission.
The Boise Rescue Mission is a “shelter first” model. We strive to get the homeless person off the street and out of “survival mode” with a safe and supportive environment that provides all of the guests’ immediate needs, not just their housing needs.
Our goal is to build relationships with every guest and to help them plot a strategy to recover from homelessness. We have a multitude of programs and services that anyone can opt into and eventually return to independence. Over 400 people each year for the past 10 years have done exactly that through the Rescue Mission.
Finally, I want to say that those “homeless advocates” pitching tents in Boise are at best misguided and at worst complete frauds when they declare that “there is no place for the homeless to go.”
We have plenty of space at Boise Rescue Mission’s five shelters in the valley. And when those “advocates” imply that “no one cares” for people in homelessness, I say that the Rescue Mission has led the way in serving homeless people for the past 64 years without one dollar of government money! This is the most generous, compassionate community on the earth, and they prove it by supporting the Rescue Mission and dozens of other nonprofit ministries and agencies serving homeless and other people living in poverty and distress.
Don’t be deceived, good citizens of this wonderful city and Treasure Valley. You have proven your generosity and compassion for people in need, and the Rescue Mission will continue to use your generous support to bring hope and recovery to anyone in need.
The Rev. Bill Roscoe is CEO of Boise Rescue Mission.