BOISE – Homeless veterans could get housing and access to health care and other services under a proposal from housing Idaho agencies and local officials.
Idaho Housing and Finance Association President Gerald Hunter told the Idaho Statesman that his organization is currently accepting proposals from developers on the project and hopes to break ground late next year. The building, which would be the state’s first permanent supportive housing for chronically homeless veterans, is expected to be complete by the end of 2020.
Hunter said the housing project could end up anywhere in Idaho, depending on the proposals that are submitted. But Boise city officials are already working on a funding plan, hoping the project will be built there.
The Idaho Housing and Finance Association plans to cover about $3.6 million of the project’s estimated $5 million cost by selling federal tax credits the IRS uses to promote low-income housing. Investors, many of them banks, buy them with cash and recover their money over time.
Mayor Dave Bieter said the city of Boise would contribute $500,000, with half coming from its own coffers and half from federal housing-assistance money it administers on behalf of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Bieter said he was confident the city council would fund the project. Private donations of about $1 million would cover the rest of the cost under a fundraising effort Bieter said his office would spearhead.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which operates the Boise VA Medical Center, would pay for supportive services under the plan.
“All those resources are really significant in their effort to put a project in Boise,” Idaho Housing and Finance Association President Gerald Hunter said.
Veterans make up about 14 percent of Ada County’s homeless population, according to the most recent estimates.
Deanna Watson, executive director of the Boise City/Ada County Housing Authority, said her agency provides close to 200 federally funded vouchers that help veterans pay rent. Still, at any given time about 25 veterans who have those vouchers can’t find a place to live because the housing market is tight and many landlords give preference to tenants who don’t need public assistance.
A stable home would help homeless veterans, especially those recently discharged from the military who are at risk of falling in with a chaotic, drug- and alcohol-abusing crowd, said Raymond Simmons, a 62-year-old former U.S. Army paratrooper who has been homeless in Boise for most of the last six years.
“It really is hard on them,” Simmons said. “They’re looking for an escape from what they were in, and they’re just getting to a place where it’s just as bad, truly. There isn’t maybe gunfire or anything like that, but you have fights all the time out here.”
Simmons said he’d probably turn down an offer of a free apartment because he wouldn’t want to take it from someone else.
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