- Associated Press - Friday, December 4, 2015

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Boise Mayor Dave Bieter declared an emergency situation, and police on Friday started the process of clearing out a homeless tent camp called Cooper Court near downtown containing about 135 people.

“Over the course of the last several weeks, the situation at Cooper Court has become increasingly a concern to us,” the mayor said. “On top of that it’s become unhealthy, unsafe and really unsustainable.”

A temporary shelter has been set up at the Fort Boise Community Center where food, medical and mental health help will be available. The temporary shelter will remain open Friday and Saturday. Bieter said the city’s existing homeless shelters contain enough space for everyone.

“This is about getting people into services. Getting them into a safe environment,” Boise Police Chief Bill Bones said. Campers were being told the site would be emptied Friday, he said.

“Ultimately there’s no choice,” Bones said.

Police blocked off streets near the tent camp heading into Friday’s removal.

“We have seen this kind of government displacement before in American history, and it has always been shameful,” said Leo Morales, executive director of the ACLU of Idaho. “The city cannot spin its way out of the cruel bottom line: Today, it destroyed a community using totalitarian tactics.”

Some of the residents of the tent camp packed up early, but a barricade was also erected. However, police moved through the camp distributing flyers about the temporary shelter at Fort Boise.

Boise’s homeless population has become a growing concern as homeless-rights activists have criticized Boise’s shelters, many of which are religious-based, for enforcing unwelcoming rules.

In September, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit against the city that contended homeless people faced a threat of being cited for violating the city ban on camping and sleeping at night in public places.

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