Imagine for one moment that a life-altering event kept you from work. After using all your savings and exhausting all other options, you were faced with the possibility of eviction. Where would you go? What would you do? The Jesse Tree, a non-profit organization in Canyon and Ada counties, seeks to help the people surrounding us who are facing homelessness by preventing it in the first place.
Established in 1999 by Monsignor John Donoghue, JoAnn Vahey, and a board of eight directors, the Jesse Tree initiated the Emergency Rent and Mercy Assistance (ERMA) program to provide mercy to those in need. Since that time, more than 7,800 people have received assistance through ERMA. For these hard-working people, life has presented serious challenges and removing the real worry of homelessness can make an immense difference. The Jesse Tree of Idaho seeks to prevent homelessness in three ways: by providing rental assistance to cover rental arrears, case management with a licensed social worker, and referral services linking clients to additional resources in the community.
Executive Director Gabriel Iacoboni shares, “I started out as an AmeriCorp VISTA with Jesse Tree, served for a year and came back because I loved it so much. What I love most about my job is knowing I am helping people and the community I live and work in. Homelessness is a vexing problem and it can cost the community an incredible amount of money. Jesse Tree can save the community money and resources by preventing it before it ever occurs.” In the U.S., it is estimated that one homeless person on the streets costs $40,000 annually in taxpayers’ dollars. Last year, there were over 2,000 homeless individuals right here in Idaho.
Many organizations partner with the Jesse Tree in preventing homelessness in the Treasure valley, including government agencies, Boise State University, local banks, churches, private and corporate donors, and many more. It takes a collaborative effort to help people when needed most. Volunteers play an immeasurable role at the Jesse Tree as they handle screening and walk-ins, answer questions over the phone, and conduct home inspections to ensure living conditions are safe. Through the mercy program, the Jesse Tree also gives gas and clothing vouchers, sponsors several families at Christmas, and partners with the Boise Police Department to support Shop with a Cop and with the Marine Corp to support Toys for Tots.
Any who wish to support The Jesse Tree’s mission can donate money, donate items, or volunteer their time in many different capacities.♦
Ada County Office
1121 Miller Street
Boise, ID 83702
Intake Line: 208-383-9486
Canyon County Office
16 12th Ave. South
Suite 114 (inside Longbranch Station)
Nampa, ID 83651
Intake Line: 208-941-3188