Idaho sues to stop encampment on Capitol Annex

Tuesday March 15, 2022

Boise, Idaho – Governor Brad Little announced today his administration and Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden filed a lawsuit Monday to stop illegal public camping and the associated health and safety violations taking place on the Capitol Annex in downtown Boise.

Governor Little directed the Idaho Department of Administration to seek an injunction today on behalf of the State of Idaho. The filing seeks to have the court enter an order enjoining individuals from camping on state property near the Capitol.

“Idaho will not tolerate public encampments and destruction of public property. Idaho is not San Francisco, Portland, or Seattle, where public officials have engaged in failed experiments to permit and encourage public camping disguised as protests. 

“What started here as a gathering of loosely affiliated individuals has escalated into dangerous health and safety violations. This lawsuit is the next step in our deliberate, careful strategy to address a highly complex situation involving state statutes, case law, and the First Amendment while ensuring the state meets its obligation to protect public health and safety. 

“I am grateful to our law enforcement officers who have conducted welfare checks and enforcement actions with integrity by treating these very vulnerable members of our community with respect and connecting them with valuable resources to help address mental health and substance use disorders in many instances,” Governor Little said.

Individuals started gathering on the state property located at Jefferson and 6th streets in Boise in mid-January. Since then, there have been a growing number of violations and dangerous conduct requiring increased calls for police service and enforcement action, including multiple instances of violence; drug abuse and distribution; the presence of hypodermic needles and bags containing human feces and urine; soiled clothing; vomit covered tents; rotting food; abandoned property; garbage; and fire hazards.

Central District Health inspected the area and determined it to be a public health and safety hazard.

Since mid-January, the Governor’s Office, Attorney General’s Office, Idaho Department of Administration, and Idaho State Police have been working together closely to address multifaceted legal implications and ensure proper enforcement actions while educating individuals at the site about resources available in the community.

Governor Little said public camping on the Capitol Mall is inexcusable and unnecessary because there are free resources for the homeless immediately available in the community, including shelters that provide safe, secure overnight shelter where individuals suffering from mental health or substance use disorders can access valuable resources.

One of those shelter resources is the Boise Rescue Mission where according to Rev. Bill Roscoe, CEO, there are plenty of open beds.

“We have open beds at both the River of Life Men’s Mission and the City Light Home for Women and Children in Boise. Contrary to rumors, we are not a ‘high barrier’ shelter and we offer safe, clean shelter, three meals daily and many programs and services all designed to help people recover from homelessness. We will welcome anyone who comes to our door needing assistance,” Roscoe said.

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