About Us

Monsignor John Donoghue founded The Jesse Tree of Idaho in 1999. Working together with Executive Director JoAnn Vahey, he gathered eight individuals to join in discerning how to begin the substantial work of spreading mercy to those in need. Monsignor Donoghue encouraged the founding members with these words:
"This prospect excites me. I believe it is the call from God to develop a wonderful mission of mercy as a fitting way to celebrate the great jubilee of Christ in 2000 and continue a fountain of mercy into the new millennium. Let us pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in this matter."
Since 1999, The Jesse Tree has evolved into an established non-profit agency dedicated to preventing homelessness. In 2000, Jesse Tree established its initial location and Board of Directors.  In 2001, the the City of Boise and Boise State University School of Social Work partnered with Monsignor Donoghue, JoAnn Vahey and the Jesse Tree Board to administer the Emergency Rent and Mercy Assistance (ERMA) program. Jesse Tree served its first clients in the winter of that year.  Monsignor, JoAnn and the founding members worked closely with the City of Boise and Boise State University.

Over the years the ERMA program has provided rental assistance, case management and referrals to thousands of households and individuals.  For many families, one month of rental assistance and the tools they gain during a case management meeting allow them to get back on track.  The beneficiaries of the ERMA program are not just adults but in many cases children.  On average, annually, almost half of the beneficiaries of the ERMA program are children.

The ERMA program helps the community save valuable resources.  It can cost the Treasure Valley community upwards of $53,000 a year to provide services to a single, homeless individual.  For much, much less, Jesse Tree can keep individuals from ever experiencing homeless and thus allow the community to address other needs with limited resources.

While saving the community valuable resources the ERMA program also protects affordable housing and combats poverty.  By keeping households in their current residence affordable housing is preserved.  This is crucially important to low income renters in the community.  An extremely low vacancy rate means it is harder for a household to find a rental they can afford.  Additionally, it means landlords can pick and choose who they rent to making it ever more important that low income households stay in the rentals they currently reside in.  Further, landlords who have an established relationship with a tenant are less likely to evict the tenant and more willing to work with them. 

By administering the ERMA program Jesse Tree also combats poverty by ensuring households with a means to self-sufficiency have a chance to return to it.  Despite the improving economy, the median income in the Treasure Valley is below the median income of 2000.  Meanwhile, rents have continually climbed and today almost 50 percent of all renters in the Valley are housing burdened (defined as 30 percent or more of income going to housing costs).

Homeless prevention has been identified as a high-priority need by the Cities of Boise, Meridian, Caldwell and Nampa.  Additionally, the Boise City/Ada County Continuum of Care and Balance of State Continuum of Care also recognize the vital role homeless prevention fills in preventing homelessness and ensuring affordable housing remains accessible to low income households.  Together, Jesse Tree works with these partners and many more to ensure hundreds of individuals can avoid homelessness and return to financial self-sufficiency.


Gabriel Iacoboni, MPA: Executive Director

Rachel Lara, LSW: Office Manager/Senior Social Worker

Jeremy Osborn: Social Work Intern

AmeriCorp Vista Member-Claire Quade


Our Board of Directors:

Allen Renshaw-Board Chairman
Don Lojek-Vice Chairman
Cecelia Merz-Treasurer of the Board
Rodger Schaver-Secretary
Wayne Johnston
Ryan Orlando
Jane Wittmeyer
Bob Fritsch

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