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Addressing homelessness: St. Luke’s supports New Path ‘Housing First’

By Daniel Mediate, News and Community
December 31, 2018

A new apartment complex recently opened in the west end of downtown Boise to provide housing for 40 people who had been chronically homeless.  

Homelessness has received increased attention in the greater Boise area in the past several years, and city leaders, nonprofits and health care organizations have eagerly launched New Path Community Housing to help address the issue.

To qualify for New Path, individuals are prioritized based on several factors, including a prolonged history of homelessness and frequent utilization of emergency services, said Maureen Brewer, the Boise City/Ada County Continuum of Care manager.

A handful of residents moved off the streets or out of emergency shelter and into the new units in late November, just before Boise’s first heavy snowstorm.

All 40 units in the $7.3 million complex were filled by the middle of December.

New Path follows the ‘Housing First’ model, which is an approach that provides housing to those experiencing homelessness without barriers to entry, such as sobriety, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Housing First model has been successful in cities around the country, including Salt Lake City.

New Path offers support services for residents, including an on-site case manager and health care providers from Terry Reilly Health Services, funded in part by St. Luke’s and Saint Alphonsus health systems. 

“The interesting thing about Housing First is that people can interpret it to mean ‘housing only,’” Brewer said. “It means exactly what it says — Housing First, and then support services must come alongside of it.”

St. Luke’s and Saint Alphonsus helped identify people who have frequently visited emergency departments while experiencing homelessness, and Ada County provided information related to recurrent incarcerations.

The Continuum of Care’s coordinated entry system, Our Path Home, prioritized a list of eligible residents. The Idaho Policy Institute at Boise State University will evaluate outcomes associated with the project, examining whether residents’ use of the emergency medical and justice systems decrease as a result of having a home and engaging in support services.

With around 100 individuals in the Boise area experiencing chronic homelessness, utilization of such services can be costly for the city — and taxpayers.

“We hope to look back and say this was the impetus that ended chronic homelessness here,” Brewer said.

New Path is the first site-based project in Boise to embrace the Housing First model with wraparound support services. The project is the culmination of an effort by multiple organizations and agencies, including the City of Boise, CATCH, Northwest Integrity Housing, The Pacific Companies, Idaho Housing and Finance Association, the Boise City/Ada County Housing Authority, Ada County, St. Luke’s and many more.

“New Path is truly a community collaborative,” said Theresa McLeod, senior director of Community Engagement at St. Luke’s. “Ensuring our vulnerable community members are getting the right care at the right time and place, this housing model provides the stability they need.”

About The Author

Daniel Mediate works in St. Luke’s Community Relations department.