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Volunteers to Move Homeless into Temporary Shelters Today
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Wednesday, December 28, 2022
 

STORY AND PHOTO BY KAREN BOSSICK

Volunteers spent Tuesday taking part in a crash course with the Red Cross regional disaster crisis management staff so they could begin moving 31 Wood River Valley residents out of hotel rooms into temporary shelters.

A dozen volunteers will ready spaces for the families and help them move into shelters set up in public spaces today. St. Luke’s Wood River provided some cots and Blaine County Emergency Services secured some additional cots and blankets.

One of the shelters accommodates women and children; another, men.

Those needing shelter include families experiencing homelessness who have been living in hotel rooms provided with the help of such organizations as Blaine County Charitable Fund and St. Luke’s Center for Community Health. They need to vacate the hotel rooms from Dec. 28 to Jan. 3 to accommodate visitors who reserved the hotel rooms for holiday visits months ago.

There are currently 85 people being put up in hotels--all but the 31 have long-term stays, thanks to hotels that have graciously accommodated them.

“We will house these people in shelters and some private accommodations until the beginning of January,” said Mary Fauth, director of the Blaine County Charitable Fund (BCCF). “We’re currently taking offers of housing—short-term or long-term—so these people don’t have to stay in hotels.”

The Blaine County Charitable Fund and other organizations have used local hotels to accommodate Wood River Valley residents experiencing homelessness during past years.

But it reached crisis proportions this year because the lack of affordable housing became much more acute and because of dangerously cold temperatures in the valley last week. About 31 individuals had to be moved into hotel rooms as the temperature plummeted to minus-16 because the sheds, cars and other accommodations in which they were living with no running water, sewage or electricity could not provide sufficient shelter.

“State law and Red Cross by-laws do not recognize extreme cold as a natural disaster, even if people die of exposure. Therefore, an emergency could not be declared,” said outgoing District 26 State Sen. Michelle Stennett.

Stennett noted that many of the valley’s service workers were being thrown out of their temporary housing so landlords and property managers could rent at top price over the holidays.

“No one was taking action so Sen. (Ron) Taylor and I decided to coordinate short-term emergency shelters equipped with cots, bedding, kitchen and bathrooms,” she added.

On Tuesday volunteers learned how to set up, operate and close down small, short-term shelters. The Red Cross would set up shelters for bigger crises.

“I was struck by the massive amount of effort that it takes to put together a shelter, including the considerations for safety and well-being,” said Fauth.

Many of those currently housed in hotels are working families with children who have been in the valley for several months or more but suddenly found themselves without a home for some reason, Fauth said.

Some valley residents are taking in family members, even though they risk violating their lease because they’re not supposed to house so many people, she added.

More volunteers are needed to help staff the shelters until Jan. 3, Fauth said. Being bilingual is a plus, but it’s not a requirement. It’s preferable that volunteers can take eight-hour shifts since the shelters have to be staffed 24 hours a day.

To volunteer, contact District 26’s new State Sen. Ron Taylor at rtaylor@senate.idaho.gov or Michelle Stennett at Stennett.michelle@gmail.com.

Anyone experiencing homelessness should contact St. Luke’s Center for Community Health. The Hunger Coalition staff will also serve as a resource when the organization reopens after New Year’s.

The emergency shelters are a very temporary action and not a long-term solution, noted Stennett.

“The local governments are slow or resistant to engage and the nonprofits are undermanned and overwhelmed,” she said. “The Hunger Coalition is feeding over 500 families a week and providing us with a list of the homeless workers and families. The Blaine County Charitable Fund is continuously searching for lodging and financially securing living arrangements.”

The City of Ketchum plans to buy pre-fabricated homes in the near future, while attempting to do more to fund funding permanent affordable housing. To learn more, visit www.projectketchum.org/housing-matters/.

The City of Ketchum also hopes that homeowners who want to rent to people who live and work here will contact housing@ketchumidaho.org. Case workers will screen potential tenants, and provide rental assistance when needed.

Donations to help fund hotel rooms and acquire transitional housing, can be made to:

Blaine County Charitable Fund

PO Box 265

Hailey, ID 83333

Online at blainecf.org

Tax deductible #ID-84-5158057

 

Hunger Coalition

110 Honeysuckle Street

Bellevue, ID 83313

Online atthehungercoalition.org

Tax ID #72-1582755

 

 

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