With the way things are going, it might not surprise you to hear that folks were weeping at a recent Boise City Council meeting. But at the Feb. 17 meeting, they were crying tears of joy and there was hardly a dry eye in the house. That’s when Boise’s Charitable Assistance to Community’s Homeless (C.A.T.C.H.) program was officially lauded with the Silver Award for Municipal Excellence by the National League of Cities and CH2M Hill. The award was presented by Mark Bowen, vice-president and area manager for CH2M Hill in Boise.
C.A.T.C.H. is a public/private partnership launched in Boise in November, 2006, said Greg Morris, C.A.T.C.H. program manager. To date, the program has helped 64 families and 130 children. “Housed and served,” Morris said. “These families have all been put into permanent housing.”
The award ceremony was emotional because in addition to hearing from city dignitaries and partnering business, religious and charitable organization officials, the City Council also heard from one of the program’s recipients, Sanaa Agumedes. (Full disclosure: Agumedes is not her real name, she is using an alias for her protection.)
In the fall of 2006, Agumedes was a student at Boise State University. She lived in an apartment in Mountain Home with her two children, commuting to BSU. Agumedes said she suddenly moved out of her apartment due to a landlord who acted inappropriately, barging into her apartment at all hours, touching her inappropriately and referring to her with racial slurs. Agumedes quickly went through her savings of about $2,000, spending it on hotels and childcare.
In November 2006, she found herself — and her two children — on the street.
Agumedes then moved into the Womens’ and Children’s Alliance (WCA) and stayed at the center with her children, working two jobs and attending school. That’s when her counselor nominated her for the C.A.T.C.H. program.
“They moved us into an apartment about one week before Christmas. It was the best Christmas present ever,” Agumedes said.
Agumedes was in the C.A.T.C.H. program for one year. She completed her degree in business management at BSU and she and her children are now successfully living on their own. She wants you to know that not all homeless people are drug addicts. “It seems to be that 80 percent of homeless people are good people that just got into a bad situation.”
The C.A.T.C.H. program is a win-win-win situation, Morris said. “It’s been very gratifying to see it make such a difference to the community. We’re able to get families back on their feet.”
It’s no wonder that the City Council award presentation was emotional. “I can’t even begin to describe to you how magical it was,” Morris said. Boise Mayor Dave Bieter agreed.
“I’m glad to see this innovative program getting the national recognition it deserves,” Bieter said. “It proves that great things can be accomplished through partnerships between cities, faith communities, businesses, and charitable organizations like the United Way. In tough economic times like we are seeing now, these partnerships are even more vital.”
For Agumedes and her children, the C.A.T.C.H. program is more like a dream come true.
“If we hadn’t gotten into that program,” she said, her voice breaking with emotion, “I don’t know where we would be right now.”