BOISE – Jeff Shaw nestled in a pile of sleeping bags and blankets inside a tent at Occupy Boise’s encampment late Tuesday night. He drifted off to sleep, but woke to a startling thought.
“What if I freeze to death?” the 23-year-old wondered.
The lean, blond musician from Utah, who counts his guitar among his few possessions, recalled the sensation of his heart slowing down.
“It felt weird,” he said Wednesday morning, shivering as he gnawed on a bagel.
Occupy Boise formed about two months ago, setting up a tent city – which members call an “indefinite vigil” – Nov. 5.
Passers-by wonder why they see so few people outside the rainbow of tents at Fifth and Jefferson streets, across from the Idaho Statehouse. One reason: It’s cold. The high temperature is in the 30s, dipping into the teens at night. It was 13 degrees early Thursday.
The regular campers last week included a core group of young and middle-aged men, some of whom are homeless and looking for work. Others have jobs.
Art Stark is a 42-year-old chairlift operator just waiting for snow to get back to work. Another camper is a sex offender released from prison in November; he said the encampment is one of the few places he’s found support.
Who’s in charge? That’s the question an 87-year-old Elmore County man who visited the camp asked the first occupier he saw on Wednesday.
The answer: No single person oversees the site.
Boisean Judy Taylor dropped off two coats. She has been gathering items from friends to pass along to her friends in Occupy Boise.
Health problems keep the 69-year-old retired property manager from living at the encampment.
“I have issues with our government,” Taylor said emphatically. “I don’t care who the president is. … I just want them to come together and solve some problems.”
Last week two twenty-somethings led campers on a mission to help clean up a nearby neighborhood.
Daniel Grad walked through the encampment, calling out to zipped-up tents: “All interested hands on deck.”
The 24-year-old from Cascade said he is a “traditionally conservative person” who favors smaller government. He was previously involved with the tea party.
“It’s been an interesting time of discovery down here,” he said. “I’ve never been around people who haven’t had homes.”
The group spent a couple of hours raking leaves at three homes Tuesday. Glenda Robertson, who lives on Seventh Street, was delighted.
“I think it’s really nice because they obviously care more about the North End than owners of some of these properties,” she said.
She hadn’t gone down to see the encampment, nor had she given the movement much thought.
“I don’t know how their sitting-in down there is going to affect the banks,” she said.