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BOISE — The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded $2.4 million in American Rescue Plan Funds for Emergency Housing Vouchers in Idaho.

In Idaho, the awards are going to the Housing Authority of the City of Pocatello (aka Housing Alliance and Community Partnerships), the Boise City Housing Authority, the Southwestern Idaho Cooperative Housing Authority and the Idaho Housing and Finance Association, according to HUD’s website.

The $2.4 million covers 217 vouchers and “related administrative costs”, according to a news release. Nationwide, HUD is awarding more than $1 billion.

“Addressing our nation’s homelessness crisis is a top priority for HUD,” HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge said in a news release. “With COVID-19 still a threat and with the sweltering summer months just around the corner, the $1.1 billion we are announcing today comes at a critical time in our efforts to get people experiencing homelessness off the streets and into safe, stable homes.”

As of January 2020, Idaho had around 2,300 people “experiencing homelessness on any given day”, according to the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness.

Homelessness has been a tense issue in Boise. After years of litigation, the city reached an agreement in February to not arrest or cite homeless people sleeping when no shelter is available.

On Thursday, Boise Mayor Lauren McLean said in a video Interfaith Sanctuary had paused its plans for a new homeless shelter at her request. The shelter had not been well received by potential neighbors, the Idaho Press reported.

“The more the numbers of homeless folks grow, the more noticeable the issue becomes and then usually the tension mounts alongside with that,” Boise City/Ada County Housing Authorities Executive Director Deanna Watson said. “I think with the pressures coming from the increases in the rent levels … A lot of people are getting priced out of the market.”

Only the city of Boise received the vouchers, not Ada County. The vouchers will work by subsidizing rents in a place with fair market rents, Watson said. In addition, there’s assistance in some of the fees that come with finding houses, security deposits and case management.

The funding will be available in July, Watson said. The families need to fit one of four categories: homeless, at risk of homelessness, fleeing or attempting to flee situations such as domestic violence or human trafficking, or recently homeless.

The 41 vouchers her agency is receiving will help, she said, but there could be more help. The next issue is finding housing to connect the assistance too. There are limitations on how much the housing authority can spend.

“As the rent prices go up, some of the units that might have been accessible for people on assistance programs become inaccessible,” Watson said. “We just don’t have enough affordable housing units.”

Carolyn Komatsoulis covers Meridian and Ada County. Contact her at 208-465-8107 and follow her on Twitter @CKomatsoulis.

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