When the community unites to solve a problem, it’s amazing to see the results we can achieve together. In January, the United Way of Southeastern Idaho awarded an emergency grant of $8,000 to Valley Mission to create a solution for sheltering homeless individuals on cold winter nights. Due to COVID-19, the community was not able to rely on a temporary congregate living space for homeless individuals on cold winter nights as in past years.
A number of community partners rallied together to quickly find a solution to help keep individuals from freezing to death from exposure during our coldest East Idaho nights. The solution was to create a motel voucher system to house individuals for a night at a local motel on nights when the temperature dropped below 20 degrees.
The Thunderbird Motel stepped up to participate in the voucher program which was administered by Valley Mission staff. There were 55 nights of stays in total from January through March which served 35 individuals and a couple of families with temporary shelter. Guests also received hot meal vouchers which they could redeem at fast-food restaurants nearby. Valley Mission Executive Director Karl Pettit said, “The Thunderbird Motel staff were amazing to work with. The owners, Kendra and Matt, had their hearts completely in the program and they served those guests with such dignity. It was such a blessing to be able to be a part of this!
United Way of Southeastern Idaho CEO, Kevin Bailey, said,
“Our community is capable of rising up to meet any challenge that’s put in front of us. Our community has the resources to do big things and this was just another example of a group of problem solvers coming together to help keep vulnerable individuals alive on our harshest winter nights.”
Referrals to the overnight motel voucher program were made by a number of different agencies across our region, including The Behavioral Crisis Center, Aid for Friends, Southeastern Idaho Council of Governments (SICOG), the Pocatello Police Department, Family Services Alliance, the Pocatello Free Clinic, Trinity Episcopal Church, and even retailers like Walmart. The remaining funds for the program will be used to meet ongoing sheltering and housing needs in our community as they arise.