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CATCH of Canyon County isn’t about giving handouts, program coordinator Christy Thomas said, it’s about teaching participants the skills they need to succeed on their own. And in the case of Annie Bounds of Nampa, that’s exactly what they’ve done.

Bounds, proprietor of Annie’s Pet Salon in Nampa, went from a single mother forced out of her home by domestic violence to local small business owner. It’s a lifelong dream come true, she said — and CATCH helped make that happen. Even after striking out on her own, CATCH continues to provide support when she needs it. And if CATCH staffers don’t offer a service she needs, they can still point her in the right direction.

“It’s just the best program in the world, and they never let go. Even after you graduate, you can count on CATCH for anything once you’re in that program.” Bounds said. “I can use them and talk to them about anything and everything. They’re still there for you.”

It’s a two-way street, she continued. As CATCH continues to help her, she returns the favor through financial contributions. And when she needs to hire a new employee, she asks CATCH to send her a current program participant, which addresses her own business needs while helping someone else become self-sufficient. As a Girl Scout leader, Bounds has her troop assemble first aid kits to donate to CATCH, and people who don’t want Girl Scout cookies of their own can still buy them from her scouts and have them sent to the program.

And with a successful business comes more personal freedom. With a reliable income and the flexibility to create her own schedule, Bounds said, she can spend more time with her three children, ages 7, 9 and 11.

“I can spend as much time as I need and want with the kids, and do more extracurricular activities with them,” she said. “And just be more of the mom that I’ve always wanted to be.”

ISSUES TO BE DEALT WITH

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requires cities of a certain size to have a 10-year plan to deal with homelessness. No Canyon County communities meet that size requirement — Boise is the only city in Idaho that does — but that doesn’t mean they’re not actively addressing the issue of homelessness.

Nampa’s approach is twofold, community development program manager Jennifer Yost said: First, the city helps fund Salvation Army and CATCH of Canyon County through the federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program. Second, the city helps coordinate the efforts of local charities, nonprofits and religious organizations to make sure they’re working together in efficient synergy.

“We put organizations in touch with other organizations so that there’s no duplication of efforts, as well as other potential funding sources that they can go after,” Yost explained. “CDBG is not the only funding that’s available.”

The city of Caldwell, meanwhile, addresses homelessness almost entirely though CATCH of Canyon County, program coordinator Christy Thomas said. While Caldwell doesn’t directly fund CATCH — its funding comes from Nampa’s CDBG program and private grants — the city helps out by hosting the program and providing accounting and other essential services for free.

Both Yost and Thomas said they’d like to see families kept together. Currently, many shelters split couples into gender-specific dormitory-style accommodations, and boys over 13 cannot stay with their mothers at some women’s shelters. Treating families as a single unit, rather than a group of individuals, is one of the primary goals of the CATCH program, Thomas said. That’s important, because the morale of a homeless family is likely already low enough.

“It’s super hard when the mom has to go to one shelter, the dad has to go to another shelter,” Thomas said. “I can’t really imagine. You’re homeless, and then you’re split up from your family.”

CATCH addresses this through a program called Housing First, she continued, which emphasizes getting a family into a home as quickly as possible. Once that’s done, it’s not as hard to get the other stabilizing factors — such as jobs and education — to fall into place.

“It’s just easier when they have their own space,” she said. “And your family can be together.”

In Nampa, Yost explained, the city would like to cure the disease rather than treat the symptoms — and that means job creation. As employment opportunities grow, homelessness numbers start to drop on their own. Thus, many of the city’s long-term goals involve investing in infrastructure and creating a business-friendly community.

“We’re out there constantly working with different businesses. ‘Do you want to expand? How can we help you? Who are your suppliers, and should we encourage them to come to the area?’ So we have a whole system of employment, rather than one industry type,” Yost said. “That’s what I would really like to see. Not just on a city-wide level, which we’re moving towards, but also on a federal level.”

And the economy is slowly moving in the right direction, Yost said. She’s noticed longer lines and bigger crowds at stores and restaurants, and said that’s a great indicator of economic progress. Tangible improvement won’t happen overnight, she said, but over time community members may notice a difference.

“It’s incremental change. I don’t think people are going to feel a change until maybe a year from now, and say ‘Wow, it really is better than it was last year,’” she said. “I don’t see this huge shifts anymore, which helps people feel confident. My belief is that consumer confidence is what drives our economy.”

For more on the Homeless, not Hopeless special report visit: idahopress.com/homeless

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