Boise, Idaho, reaches settlement over homeless camping

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Homeless people sleeping in public in Boise, Idaho, will not be cited or arrested when no shelter is available under a settlement that ends a dozen years of litigation over the issue.

Under the agreement announced Monday by Mayor Lauren McLean’s office the city also will make changes to ordinances that guide police citations for public sleeping and the city will further train officers.

The settlement will cost Boise about $1.8 million, including $1.3 million to create new overnight shelters or revamp existing shelters.

“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,” McLean said in a statement. “This agreement will deliver on a promise I made to the people of Boise that I would resolve this decade-long litigation we inherited.”

The city was initially sued in 2009 over its enforcement of an ordinance that banned people from sleeping in public places. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of six people who had been cited for violating the ordinance.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in September 2018 that Boise’s anti-camping ordinance was unconstitutional because sometimes homeless residents have no other available options. The city asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the ruling, but the court declined.

The ruling has applied across several Western states where cities are struggling with homelessness brought on by rising housing costs and income inequality.

“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,” Pamela Hawkes Duke, one of the plaintiffs experiencing homelessness in Boise, said in the news release. “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.”

The agreement is “a road map” to the dismissal of the remaining claims made against Boise, officials said.

Howard Belodoff, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs, said in the news release the settlement requires the city to focus on services rather than the far more expensive punishment in the criminal justice system.

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