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Officials Urged to Address ‘Emerging Humanitarian Crisis’
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The Wood River Valley is in the grips of an unfolding humanitarian crisis, according to the representatives of several valley organizations.
   
Wednesday, January 11, 2023
 

BY KAREN BOSSICK

Temporary emergency shelters opened over the Christmas holidays provided shelter from the cold for 31 Wood River Valley residents who lost hotel accommodations due to the influx of Christmas visitors to the valley.

But leaders of several organizations told Blaine County commissioners Tuesday that another crisis is looming. More than 40 Wood River Valley residents will lose their temporary housing on Jan. 21 with no alternative housing options available.

“This crisis has been unfolding for weeks, months and indeed years. The time for action is now,” representatives of The Hunger Coalition read from a letter penned by six organizations.

More than a hundred people are being housed in temporary locations, such as hotel rooms and private residences. They were placed in those situations by case managers from The Hunger Coalition, Blaine County Charitable Fund and St. Luke’s Center for Community Health.

But 48 of those individuals will lose their temporary housing due to preexisting hotel reservations on Jan. 21. In addition, there are families living in unsafe and unsanitary conditions, sleeping in cars, sheds and unwinterized trailers without access to heat, electricity or plumbing. Many of those families have young children.

“The nonprofit organizations who have been managing this humanitarian crisis and coordinating temporary housing efforts are reaching a breaking point,” the letter states. “We do not have adequate staff, resources and cannot mobilize in the manner that government can and is designed to do. Eventually our funding for temporary housing will also run out.”

The organizations involved in penning the letter are The Alliance of Idaho, Blaine County Charitable Fund, Blaine County Recreation District, Blaine County School District, The Hunger Coalition and St. Luke’s Center for community Health

Representatives called on county commissioners and officials of the cities of Ketchum, Sun Valley, Hailey, Bellevue and Carey to:

  • Make an emergency declaration that would send a clear message to state officials and mobilize local resources.
  • Establish a solution-oriented taskforce led by government to plan and implement policies to meet “the emerging humanitarian crisis.”
  • Establish a meeting cadence with a communication platform that allows for real-time situational reporting.

“Many area nonprofits have come together in recent weeks to provide short-term assistance, and in doing so, have no doubt averted medical emergencies and even fatalities,” the letter states. “But our nonprofits are not equipped to provide longer-term, systemic solutions. We are not experts in emergency housing or emergency response operations. Disaster and crisis management is a legitimate function of government, which is responsible for the health, safety and well-being of our communities.”

 

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