Law enforcement officials in Coeur d’Alene gave homeless people one day last week to clear out of “Hobo Alley,” a makeshift camp for the destitute on the outskirts of town that’s been the scene of a pair of recent small fires.
Last week’s order affected about two dozen people living on a narrow strip of tree-filled private land between a University of Idaho branch center and a main traffic thoroughfare. Most, if not all, had left by Friday.
Some say the homeless people living in Coeur d’Alene are a reminder that not everyone in the area has profited from an expanding local economy. Despite recent turbulence in the financial markets and the housing crunch, Robb Report’s Vacation Homes magazine, in its most recent issue, features Coeur d’Alene as one of its top 10 places to buy a second home, citing strong prices and steady economies.
“People don’t realize this is happening around this town, too,” Teri Montanero, 43, told the Coeur d’Alene Press. “The city says there isn’t a homeless problem here. Come down and see where I’ve been living, and I’ll show you a lot more than you think are out there living in a 100-yard stretch.”
After being evicted by Kootenai County sheriff’s deputies, Montanero said she would seek shelter with her stepmother in Hayden, her father in Rathdrum or a friend with an apartment nearby.
Homeless people have adopted this site for several years, in particular during warm months when there’s little rain. Authorities say the property owner finally lost patience after the fires raised concerns over liability or more extensive damage.
“It was out of sight, out of mind,” Patrick Meehan, a sheriff’s deputy, told Montanero during a visit when he informed squatters they had to go. “But with the fires, the property owners don’t want you out here anymore.”
This isn’t the only transient community in the area. There’s another just off U.S. Highway 95 to the north; with the arrival of colder weather, some of those who had been living at this site will opt to hitch rides south to warmer states.
Kenneth Giffin said he’s waiting for his disability check. The former U.S. Marine said he may decamp to a nearby hotel, if he raises another $50 for the monthly rent. “Not all of us are drunks or drug users,” he said while packing his few belongings. “But sometimes they treat us all like we’re parasites.”