In September 2017, community leaders broke ground on Idaho’s first permanent housing development designed to house 41 chronically homeless people.
Slated for downtown Boise, the New Path development is based on the national Housing First model, which emphasizes putting individuals in stable housing and giving them access to health care, substance abuse treatment, and financial and job counseling, among other social services deemed necessary to end the cycle of chronic homelessness.
While the project is jointly funded by the City of Boise and the Boise City/Ada County Housing Authority, it would not have been possible without the work of Boise State assistant research professor and Idaho Policy Institute Assistant Director Vanessa Fry. Research conducted by Fry showed city leaders that for every 40 chronically homeless people in Ada County, a total of $2.1 million annually was spent on services – including shelter costs, emergency medical treatment, medically monitored detox and mental health crises services. By comparison, Fry’s research showed that when 40 chronically homeless people are enrolled in a Housing First program, their intensive team-based care costs drop to $450,000 annually.
“I conducted the feasibility assessment for using Housing First to address issues related to chronic homelessness in Ada County, so seeing the ground breaking in September was an amazing experience,” Fry said. Once New Path opens, the Idaho Policy Institute will be conducting a long-term, third-party evaluation of the project.
“I’ll be able to continue providing objective data and analysis for decision makers,” said Fry, who came to Boise State specifically to focus on applied research and its ability to inform the policy-related work of nonprofit, government entities and businesses. “If the program proves to be successful, the data will be helpful in scaling the program up to serve more people in the community.”