$1 million federal grant could boost Interfaith Sanctuary expansion

Interfaith Sanctuary’s proposal to relocate to State Street could get help from Washington D.C.

The Idaho Housing and Finance Association, a quasi-governmental agency that distributes funds for affordable housing development, is applying for a federal grant to help with the shelter’s expansion. On February 25, IHFA submitted an application for a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that could be used toward the purchase of a property for Interfaith Sanctuary’s reimagined shelter project.

[Boise’s homelessness system will get $1.3 million. How will it be spent?]

If approved, the funds would come from the federal government’s Community Development Block Grant program and could be used toward purchasing land for a new shelter. But, IHFA spokesman Ben Cushman said the funds don’t have to go toward the State Street parcel specifically. There is also no guarantee IHFA will get the grant.

“We support any efforts to provide shelter and support for Idahoans experiencing homelessness,” Cushman said in an email. “In this case, the extent of our involvement is to help finance the purchase of a facility that Interfaith and the Boise community determine is suitable.”

Shelter will still be operated privately

Interfaith Sanctuary’s proposal to create a larger shelter with day programming at the former Salvation Army Warehouse on State Street is controversial. The nonprofit says they are bursting at the seams at their current location on River Street, but the nearby Veteran’s Park Neighborhood Association argues it will lower property values nearby and disturb residents.

During multiple town hall meetings on the project, residents questioned Interfaith Sanctuary Executive Director Jodi Peterson-Stigers about how she would raise the funds for an expanded shelter without any public assistance. She did not mention the possibility of the grant until documents about it began circulating on social media last week.

Peterson-Stigers said she’s been talking with IHFA’s Vice President of Housing Support Programs Brady Ellis about the possibility of a partnership to expand the shelter for two years now. Interfaith Sanctuary does not take government funding of any kind for operations of its shelter or to pay staff because of requirements from the federal government capping how long guests can stay and other rules.

But, Peterson-Stigers said they were open to this grant because it would mean IHFA would help purchase the building and then leave Interfaith Sanctuary to raise the funds for the rest of the purchase price, remodel and day-to-day operations.

“If an entity has government funding, as long as it doesn’t tell us how to operate then there’s no conflict,” she said. “We’re obviously very careful about that.”