After 12 years of litigation, Boise has settled a lawsuit involving how the city will handle homeless citizens in the future.  Homeless people will not be arrested or given a ticket for sleeping outdoors when there is no shelter according to a news release from the City of Boise.  Boise officials say they will continue to work to help the homeless find a permanent home.

The City will invest $1,335,000 in preventing homelessness in our community in 2021, at least one-third of which will be committed to rehabilitating or creating additional overnight shelter space.

Boise will amend two ordinances to bring them in line with the City’s current practice of protecting the constitutional rights of those who are unable to access shelter based on disability, sexual orientation, or religious practices. The Boise Police Department will adopt and implement additional guidance and training for officers to further ensure no person experiencing homelessness is issued a citation when no shelter is available to them.

This agreement is a roadmap to a final dismissal of all remaining claims against the City.

"The City of Boise is happy to have reached an agreement that advances our goal of putting those experiencing homelessness on a path to permanent housing and is consistent with the current city policy," said Mayor Lauren McLean. "This agreement will deliver on a promise I made to the people of Boise that I would resolve this decade-long litigation we inherited."

 

“Today’s settlement in the landmark Martin v. Boise case is a win for all residents of Boise, housed and unhoused alike, and serves as a national model for how other communities should be implementing the decision,” said Eric Tars, Legal Director at the National Homelessness Law Center. “By getting homeless individuals off the streets and into housing or shelter, there will be no need to enforce any ordinances against them—housing, not handcuffs, is what ends homelessness.”

 

As Howard Belodoff, Associate Director of Idaho Legal Aid Services, stated, “The settlement represents the efforts of hundreds of homeless citizens of Boise who were prevented from accessing overnight shelter to sleep due to a disability, limited shelter capacity and shelter policies. The settlement requires the City to focus on services rather than the far more expensive punishment in the criminal justice system and incarceration in the Ada County Jail.”

 

“The Ninth Circuit’s landmark decision resolved that the Eighth Amendment prohibits cities from criminalizing the status of homelessness itself by punishing individuals for sleeping outside when they have nowhere else to go,” said Latham & Watkins partner Michael Bern. “The City’s commitment to safeguard the rights of Boise’s residents and dedicate additional funds to preventing and ending homelessness will produce meaningful benefits for Boise’s homeless community as well as the City of Boise itself.”

 

“I am so happy and proud to see everyone's hard work finally come together in such a way that will help so many people,” said Pamela Hawkes Duke, one of the plaintiffs experiencing homelessness in Boise. “I am really looking forward to seeing what other cities come up with as time goes on, especially when the City of Boise will have laid down the foundation for what it could look like.”

 

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