Jan 09, 2024

New Interfaith Sanctuary shelter price tag climbs to $14.5 million

The effort to move Interfaith Sanctuary's emergency shelter to State Street is a lot more expensive than the nonprofit originally planned.

Executive Director Jodi Peterson-Stigers told BoiseDev the price tag for the group's new, and larger, shelter in the old Salvation Army warehouse on State Street is now estimated to cost $14.5 million. She said this figure comes from all of the latest bids from contractors on the project for how much it would cost to build out the entire facility.

So far, she's raised $8.9 million toward the project and is continuing to hold meetings with community members and seeking partnerships to get the doors open after more than two years since the nonprofit announced its plans to try and relocate.

She says the combination of the length of time since the project was first envisioned pushed the price up because of rising labor and materials costs. But, she said another major factor is major design changes that had to be made to accommodate the dozens of conditions placed upon the project by the City of Boise in the approval process.

"I think it's a huge teachable moment that, hey when a private nonprofit is offering to build a better shelter to house homeless people in your city and community they operate from a private fundraising budget and when you’re dumping on conditions to an application and requiring a lot of design changes you have to take into consideration the price tag of that," she said.

Interfaith Sanctuary does not accept government grants to sustain itself and largely runs off of private donations, with the exception of COVID-19 relief funds and City of Boise funds it received to operate at a higher capacity since the start of the pandemic.

Interfaith Sanctuary had a variety of conditions placed upon it when the Boise City Council approved it.

This ranged from requirements for guests who were removed from the shelter or who couldn't stay to be transported back downtown, rules for medically trained personnel to be on staff to reduce burden on the fire department in the area and an extensive list of other requirements. This came after a record number of hours of public testimony on the topic, with the nearby Veterans Park Neighborhood Association expressing heavy opposition to the idea.

But, what Peterson-Stigers says cost so much in the redesigned shelter was the condition that single adults and families with children are not supposed to cross paths at any time during their shelter stay. This condition came after some members of VPNA alleged the shelter would bring a high number of sex offenders to the area and Interfaith doesn't do enough to enforce its rules against sex offenders from staying at the shelter.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, all guests of Interfaith Sanctuary stayed in the same shelter building together, with single adults on one side of the building and families on the other separated by a series of locked doors. They shared a dining room, but had specific hours of when each group could use the cafeteria. There were times when the two groups were visible to each other, but there were strict rules about how close single adults could be to the families and Peterson-Stigers said staff was "very protective" and ensured the two populations stayed separate. All guests are screened to ensure they are not registered sex offenders upon intake at the shelter.

The original design for the new shelter had the dining facilities located in a separate building where the two populations, once again, would dine separately. But, this layout would require the families to walk past the single adult area to get meals and, thus, would violate the condition.

To meet it, Peterson-Stigers said they had to rearrange the inside of the building to create separate dining facilities with separate doors for single adults and for families. This removed some of the space for family beds, so to create a shelter that had the room for the guests they wanted, the new design calls for a newly built second floor.

"It's incredibly expensive to build an entirely new floor," Peterson-Stigers said.

Another high-cost area of the project is the fence behind the shelter separating it from the nearest neighbors, several of whom are a few hundred feet from the shelter. Peterson-Stigers says the original design proposed was an eight-foot-tall wooden and steel fence with landscaping to cut down on noise. But, going through the approval process, the condition for the fence was changed to a specialized fence with cement blocks to add even more noise buffering.

This fence is projected to cost $330,000.

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