Update 5:30 p.m.: According to Boise Police Sgt. John Terry, there have been no arrests at Cooper Court. Police have been going tent-to-tent and the homeless people camping there are gone. Terry says there was some verbal resistance at first, but after explaining the options, people left without quarrel.
Original post: On Friday, the City of Boise began taking new action on the homeless encampment known as Cooper Court.
Citing safety concerns, police are telling people to leave the area. Buses are waiting to take those who opt to stay at a new temporary resource center at Fort Boise. The city says people who choose this option can stay for one night and will receive meals and medical attention today and tomorrow.
Friday morning the city held a press conference laying out options for homeless people who have been living in the alley, located near Interstate 184. Mayor Dave Bieter has also declared a "local disaster emergency" confined to the area by River Street and South Americana Boulevard.
Boise Police estimate more than 100 people have been staying in the alley as the weather has grown increasingly colder.
In a written statement, Bieter says there are enough beds in the city's three homeless shelters to accommodate those being force to leave Cooper Court.
“The City of Boise is lucky to have a number of wonderful non-profit partners that provide direct services, including emergency shelter, to people experiencing homelessness in our community. Those providers have enough capacity to provide shelter and services to those leaving Cooper Court. We hope that they will avail themselves of the services available to them.” - Boise Mayor Dave Bieter
But not everyone is allowed to use the shelters. Karl Lockhart has been staying at Cooper Court, and is unable to stay at Interfaith Sanctuary because of a previous altercation with a worker. He was worried about all the different people in the area Friday morning, some of whom were volunteers and protestors as well as police.
“Who are these people we don’t know," says Lockhart. "I would like to know who these people are – these are all new people that have never seen something like this before probably. And I want to know what they’re working for or who they’re working for."
On Thursday afternoon, police officers sectioned off part of River Street and set up large rental tents to begin the process. By Friday afternoon, the three tents were open for residents of Cooper Court to get food and connect with medical resources provided by the city.
Don Brown is another homeless person being told to leave. He says he plans to use the temporary center the city is offering, but is still upset with their policies.
“We’re going to have a march to city hall and the capitol building both," says Brown. "Because we’re tired of being pushed around by the police department, we’re tired of being pushed around by city council. We’re going to let everybody know in Boise that the homeless are people too!”
Protesters were at Cooper Court Friday morning, holding signs and chanting “housing is a human right.” The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is one of the groups that organized the protest. In a press release, the ACLU condemned what its leaders label a "mass raid" against the homeless.
"What we saw today in Boise is government at its most shameful. Government should be open, transparent, and democratic. The City of Boise launched a secretive, surprise attack on a vulnerable community. We are aware of no open meeting that the City ever held about its plan, nor did the City ever discuss its plan with Cooper Court residents. The planning was done behind closed doors, to intentionally keep the broader community out. The taxpayers and the people directly impacted were left out. Government should work with and for the people, not against them." - Leo Morales, ACLU Idaho executive director
The city had hinted at a forced evacuation in November. Two weeks ago, police officers handed out notices listing laws residents of the tent city were breaking.
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