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Women and children rely on homeless shelters to stay warm through winter

Karen Lehr

Photo: Video by IdahoOnYourSide.com

Women and children rely on homeless shelters to stay warm through winter

CREATED Nov. 17, 2013

With winter weather creeping in, many women and children rely on homeless shelters for winter clothing and a warm place to stay.

120 women and 60 children in the Treasure Valley call City Light in downtown Boise their home.

“You know, we call it the City Light Home for Women and Children, and it turns into an extended family,” City Light director Jean Lockhart said. “They help each other out; they babysit with each other’s kids, help each other with chores and just try to make it through the day.”

The home offers overnight shelter to those in need in the Treasure Valley. During winter months, women like Samira Khan wonder where they’d be without it.

“Probably on the streets,” Khan said. “And people would be shocked that somebody with two degrees and 17 languages is lying out in the alley, but that’s what it would’ve been like.”

Khan graduated from the University of Michigan with a Bachelors degree in Criminal Justice and a Masters in Psychology.

“I had a job before, but I got laid off due to budget cuts,” Khan said. “Some states are financially challenged at this present time so even your best get laid off.”

She’s been living at the shelter for ten months after being let go from her job in Washington years ago.

“It doesn’t mean that you did drugs or alcohol because you become financially challenged. People think that’s the reason you end up in a shelter,” Khan said. “Anyone can lose their job--let it be a state employee, a federal employee. You can lose your job and end up being homeless.”

She and the other women at the home rely on donated goods for their entire wardrobes.

“I got warm clothing to be outside all day, and I also got clothes to dress up for an interview if I ever get lucky enough to get an interview,” Khan said. 

“We provide all the clothing, shoes, underwear, socks, everything for the people who live here,” Lockhart said. “Our kids occasionally lose their mittens, lose their scarves and lose their hats, so we’re always kind of looking for a fresh supply. They lose their coats--leave them somewhere--just like all normal kids!”

City Light’s kitchen also dishes out 370 meals every single day from donated items. Since their number one goal is encouraging women to find careers, the kitchen also serves as a classroom.

“People help in the kitchen, and they can also get their food handler safety certificates while they’re here,” Lockhart said. “We help them with that, and that helps them with jobs in the food service industry.”

The shelter encourages women to actively look for jobs and update their resumes across the street at the shelter's resource center.

“We want people to get up, and go and get their jobs, and work on their GED, and work on their college, work on their job skills. We don’t want them all sitting around, and they don’t,” Lockhart said.

“I go over there, and I search for jobs,” Khan said. “I do Idaho, Utah, Nevada. I do five states in about two hours.”

After 13 years, City Light is still going strong, offering women in need a hot meal and a place to sleep.

“Some of the people would freeze to death, die, or be abused because they’re financially challenged,” Khan said. “So if this wasn’t here, a lot of women would be exploited.”

The shelter is always accepting donations-from food and clothing products, to bedding and cleaning supplies. Donations can be dropped off at the Boise Rescue Mission’s warehouse at 308 S 24th St, Boise, or any Boise Rescue Mission shelter.

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