Homelessness isn’t something that only occurs in cities, it happens right here in North Idaho. According to Tamie Martinsen of Bonner Homeless Transitions, the lack of emergency homeless shelters cause women to stay in abusive relationships because they have no place to go. On any given day, approximately 175 victims of domestic violence/sexual assault seek refuge in a shelter somewhere in Idaho. The Bonner Homeless Transition shelters typically have waiting lists, and low income housing apartments have long waiting lists. Rich Crettol, of the Sandpoint Community Resource Center, states he has nowhere to send homeless women. Housing issues are one of the things that the resource center gets the most calls about.

The Gospel Mission in Ponderay has the capacity to house 15 to 16 men. They are usually not full, and tend to shelter mostly transient men. Priest River Ministries focuses on female victims of abuse, and can house 4 adults and a few children. They are typically full, but can at times offer transportation to the bus service in Newport that transports people to shelters in Spokane.

What would you do if perhaps you were injured, or became ill, and could not continue to work which caused you to be evicted or foreclosed upon? This is a scenario that affects many Americans. If you are a single male, you could stay at the Gospel Mission shelter. Otherwise, it would be difficult to find shelter. If you are lucky enough to have transportation, your best bet would be to head to Spokane.

The homeless are relatively invisible in our area. Hence it’s easy to turn a blind eye to this devastation.  Some people camp at campsites, some are helped by churches and other organizations, but this type of help is typically short-lived, if it can be found at all.

What would help? We need transportation to Spokane, like the bus service that, in the past, traveled from Sandpoint to Spokane for $5. We desperately need an emergency shelter. Studies have shown that people tend to continue in the homeless cycle until they procure stable housing. As rental prices rise beyond the range of many workers, affordable housing is greatly needed, not only for the homeless, but for a large majority of our population. Raising the minimum wage could potentially help provide the needed income to pay for housing.

First, we start with awareness. The next step is to create partnerships with local organizations like the Bonner Community Housing Agency, Bonner Homeless Transitions, Priest River Ministries, and others. As a team, we can strive to provide enough housing to service our population. A roof over your head is a basic human right.