“Dial Down the Love”

By JC

Seems that Missoula Councilor Bob Jaffe let loose his true feelings in a post to his listserve yesterday. I guess it’s time for our annual bash the homeless prattle from town hall, now that Missoula is at it’s seasonal height for transient migration, coupled with a burgeoning local homeless population including far too many Missoula families.

So I thought I’d poke my nose in Jaffe’s business and bring to light what he really thinks about Missoula’s less fortunate. Here’s the relevant part of his post for your reading [dis]pleasure. Feel free to leave your comments about homelessness in Missoula, and the way our public servants think and talk about it:

“Next we had a presentation in Public Safety regarding our new full time downtown officer. Her name is Nicole Pifari and she has decided to leave the police force to go to law school. The plan is that she will continue to work for the force during the summers while she is in school. She has been at it for about six weeks now and the response from downtown business owners and patrons has been extremely positive. Assigning an officer to this beat full time creates continuity. She sees the same folks over and over and gets to know what’s going on.

The presentation was from Assistant Chief Brady and BID director Rod Austin. I wanted to hear what Officer Pifari had to say so I asked her up to come up and answer some questions. She had a few comments that I thought were important. She clarified that the work was primarily about dealing with the homeless population. She was clear that her job is not about solving homelessness or vagrancy. It is about keeping it out of downtown. She lets the folks know they need to find a more socially acceptable place to throw up and piss themselves. She knows that Missoula is a very friendly and empathetic place. Her job is to make it a little less friendly and comfortable for the least among us.

I had the impression she was fully aware of the unfortunate and tragic nature of this assignment. We have a very friendly and accepting community and a population of destitute people who survive by manipulating and taking advantage of this kindness. There is a critical mass or threshold that gets crossed and then the community starts to feel victimized. Our response is to dial down the love these folks feel when they come to Missoula. This is Nicole’s job.

On the up side, she provides the rest of us with a sense of security, safety and order. In general, the odds that a shopper will suffer any actual harm from a homeless person is incredibly small. But the perception of danger is real. An officer in uniform creates a perception of safety. Folks love it. Her presence is a huge benefit to the health and future of our downtown. I got the feeling that she had the perfect disposition to serve the community in this role. Hopefully the plans to retain her during the summers will pan out.

Jon Wilkins also pointed out that we can’t just arrest these folks because our judge just lets them go free. He wants to see them go to jail and be given an orange jump suit and be put to work picking up trash along the highway. I’m actually intrigued by the idea of instituting a chain gang in Missoula. Nothing wrong with a little community service and clearly these folks aren’t concerned with being humiliated in public. We would need to find a big tobacco chewing officer with a shotgun to oversee the crew to get the full effect. I think the word would get out pretty quick that maybe Missoula isn’t the best place to be sprawled out on the sidewalk. There is a major issue with funding and liability. One of the reasons we don’t put transients in jail is they have all sorts of medical problems that become our responsibility once they are incarcerated. I can’t imagine what would happen if we actually made them perform physical labor. If we could come up with a funding mechanism I would be curious if we could try this. I’m wondering if anyone north of Texas has attempted it and whether folks would be horrified or happy the trash was being picked up.”

P.S., hat tip to Duganz and lizard for bringing this topic up today on another blog post

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  1. Seth

    You are making a mountain out of nothing here.

    Alderpeople like Jaffe hear complaints from downtown business owners along these lines all the time.

    If you want to tar and feather someone regarding the words he used, point your finger at downtown business owners.

    • JC

      It’s ok for Jaffe to hear complaints from downtown business owners, but not from his constituents who may not particularly like his take on the whole thing? Or his choice of words and sentiment?

      Jaffe’s concerns for downtown business owners at the expense of Missoula’s homeless families and transients has been a major concern with many, particularly in light of his push to criminalize homelessness last year.

      If I were to tar and feather Jaffe, this post would have taken a far different stance, instead of just putting his words out there for people to read and react to.

      And if you’ve got some finger pointing to do towards downtown businesses, let’s hear it.

  2. Ed

    Did y’all miss that Jaffe has his tongue firmly planted in his cheek here? He’s being sarcastic as hell in his message. Jaffe is a staunch defender of the downtrodden. Read his message again while watching for the sarcasm at Wilkins’ expense; it’s pretty hard to miss.

    • Lizard

      if this is sarcasm, then maybe bob should have prefaced his commentary with a heads up for those who don’t know that he’s a “staunch defender of the downtrodden.”

      anyway, if this is sarcasm, which i’m not convinced is the case, then it’s an unprofessional distraction that detracts from a very divisive topic: homelessness. bob is mixing up the issue of homelessness and transience, which just bolster what many people in this community already believe.

      i’m sure the folks who work at the pov don’t appreciate bob’s snide remarks. especially after being demonized by anonymous comments at the missoulian, scapegoated for destroying downtown business, raked across the coals by the op-ed folks at the missoulian, and told by the mayor to stop any efforts at trying to build a more appropriate facility.

      • Ed

        Some can easily recognize satire; others cannot. I recommend that you stay far away from The Onion.

        • Lizard

          thanks ed. that wasn’t condescending at all.

        • Nick D

          I feel like I’m pretty adept at recognizing satire, and I still wasn’t sure about the content of Jaffe’s email. That confusion is compounded by his follow-up today.

        • klemz

          JC and Lizard, I’m a bit astonished. I mean isn’t it obvious?

          • Lizard

            klemz, i read these comments several times, and had others read it, and it was said over and over: is this a joke? it wasn’t clear to anyone that it was, though for many supporters of bob and the progressives on council, they sure hoped it was just a joke.

            my conclusion is, based on how ugly this issue becomes when discussed, especially in forums like the missoulian.com, that it doesn’t matter if it’s a joke or not, because bob’s supposed satire reflects how many people in this community actually view the transient problem, i.e. let’s not actually address the problem, but find a more socially acceptable place for them to piss themselves.

            hopefully bob will make an effort to understand why his comments offended some people, and by doing so will broaden his understanding of why efforts to dissuade negative transient behavior downtown has been, so far, a failure.

            the ordinances were pushed through in a relatively short span of time. that’s because downtown businesses and law enforcement supported having new tools to criminalize panhandling and pedestrian interference.

            and, big surprise, it isn’t working, which is what some of us were saying last year would happen.

            • carfreestupidity

              The lesson here is that politicians should leave the sarcasm and satire to the professionals such as Rush and John Stewart. No matter what the intent of his comments were I would venture to say it was an utter fail given how quickly he had to release a clarification.

              • there are some things even the best comedians and satirists won’t touch….

                homelessness is one of them.

                now, that isn’t to say that it hasn’t been done well in movies- trading places was brilliant in its depiction that anyone anywhere can fall prey to the pleasures of the bottle and lose their bearings when events conspire and you are caught in the gears of a society which worships winning by any means and a system of government which rewards bad behavior….

              • klemz

                http://www.southparkstudios.com/clips/155586

  3. Stacy Rye

    Bob didn’t push to criminalize the homeless last year – far from it. The recommendations that council considered came out of a large working group of folks, NOT Bob or any other council member for that matter.

    Bob has a history of liberal and progressive votes and beliefs. His listserv post does reflect the things we hear from some of the downtowners. This is just one post, not an entire history. Cut him some slack.

    • JC

      Well, for whatever reason, he didn’t even show up to vote against the panhandling ordinance, like you did. I didn’t see him taking Strohmeier to task for his efforts at criminalizing homelessness. For a refresher, here’s a post I wrote on it last year.

      • Ed

        If you followed his listserv (or looked through the archives for that period) you would know that he was on vacation during that time. Do you expect our public servants to never take any time away from their jobs?

        • JC

          Ed, that Ordinance was rushed through as an emergency measure. I expect that if our public servants have concerns about legislation that affects civil rights of our most vulnerable residents, that they slow down such legislation until all voices are heard.

          I still believe that the Panhandling Ordinance has significant constitutional issues. Maybe the next time I go homeless and experience a bout of “serial inebriation” I’ll let myself get arrested to test it’s constitutionality. That’s one way to make a living. If rich congressmen can sue cities, why not poor indigents?

    • Its because Bob has a history of caring about the homeless — and defending human rights — that I found this recent bit so grotesque. I read it and thought “Well, Jaffe’s gone to the other side.” It wouldn’t be hard to imagine seeing how politicians at all levels of government are wont to act these days in areas concerning the poor.

      And, as you said, you guys are under pressure from many “downtowners” to throw the homeless under the bus. It would be completely understandable for a politician to do this–it’s a few easy points based on debasing defenseless people; a victimless crime in many ways.

      So I’ll praise Bob’s work defending the rights of all Missoulians, but this was just disgraceful. There’s a line between parody and reality and this blurred the line in an extremely uncomfortable way.

      • klemz

        So it’s Bob’s fault that a group of writers couldn’t pick the facetious grape out of the blackberry bush? Honestly, I think you all feel stupid for missing the point and are trying to throw up whatever defense you can. There’s no blurry line. Just blurry reading.

        • perhaps another blog would have been a better venue for bob’s homeless piece…..

          http://obrag.org/?p=21614

        • JC

          I think being facetious and sarcastic at the expense of the homeless, addicted and mentally ill is sick. Particularly when it is mixed in with pseudo serious commentary and reportage, like Bob’s posts on his listserve are.

          I guess you think it is ok. I don’t feel stupid at all. And I don’t care to defend what I’ve said on this page, or elsewhere about it.

          Bob makes fun of “SI’s”, I point it out and ask for dialog, and all of a sudden I’m the problem? Get real. You’re a journalist. Or at least used to be.

        • Um, no.

          I was offended regardless, Klemz. But my point was — if anyone else was confused — that Bob’s comments were too close for comfort to the reality of some people’s logic. My sensitivity to these issues blinded me to his jokes. It doesn’t change my feelings to know he was joking.

        • klemz

          I’m sorry P to the Z 2.0, but glass houses have no place in law and politics. It looks to me like Bob is on your side, albeit from a more moderate position. It’s understandable to be deeply offended by this issue because of the human toll, but raw emotion won’t carry the day when there’s economics involved.

  4. I read this as satire, not true feelings. I thought it was pretty obvious he was parodying what others think or say in private, only he was doing it matter-of-factly, so its absurdity and horror were plain to see.

    He does that kind of tongue-in-cheek writing on listserv all the time.

    • JC

      Maybe talking about homelessness and transience would better be done without the tongue-in-cheek if in fact this is what he was doing.

      I posted this blog to start some discussion. And it is appropriate to talk about how we “talk” about the issues of homelessness and transience. At best it can be seen as satirical and tasteless. At worst it becomes no better than Limbaugh, Beck or O’reilly’s rants about those they detest. It is divisive, prejudicial, and mean.

      Talking about these issues demands (particularly by our elected servants) a large amount of humility and deference, lest one step in a steaming pile, and have to spend time cleaning up the mess.

  5. Big Swede

    If you will build it (full service homeless shelters), they will come.

  6. Stacy Rye

    What Ed and Jay said. I did read it late last night and thought Bob, you’re asking for trouble.

  7. Yes. Sarcasm. I’m aware of it.

    But calling Bob’s piece sarcasm not a catch all defense. It’s one thing when Bob wants to poke fun at sign heights and light levels, or if everyone was able to turn on their computer. (And, also, it was obvious that the last part [about Texas] was a joke. My issue wasn’t there. It was in the rest of the piece when Bob apparently felt he was Jonathan Swift.)

    People say these things without a hint of sarcasm whenever transients/homeless/downtown is in the news. Like yesterday when the state crimelab released findings that a transient in town for a week was most likely murdered. If Bob Jaffe wanted some gosh-darn-tongue-in-cheek time about the homeless, the week a transient is murdered might not have been the best week for it.

    So, okay, Ed and Jay, you win. Bob was being sarcastic. How tactful a way to behave whilst discussing human beings.

    Oh, and just one more thing: Was it sarcasm when Bob said of Nicole Pifari that “Hopefully the plans to retain her during the summers will pan out”? Was that sarcastic too, I’m sure the officer would like to know before she spends her next (last?) paycheck.

  8. i read the link and much of it is definitely sarcasm. this seems dangerous to do regarding folks hurting this much.

    if bob was angry he chose a very poor way to vent it.
    i save my cruelty, anger and sarcasm for the priveleged in society- politicians, wealthy ceos.

    not homeless individuals who are trying to survive a day to day existence in a country that has turned their back on them because they didn’t “win” in an increasingly competitive job market coupled with an extremely crippled economy.

    the vast majority of missoula has a proud tradition of caring for others. the tiny segment of people so callous as to deride and make fun of them should be ignored. i hope bob jaffe clarifies this link.

  9. His mention of a “funding mechanism” has a whiff of authenticity. Can never have enough of those, right?

  10. I’ll try to restate the issue more clearly:
    First, I have learned today, that the Poverello staff do not appreciate it when I refer to the “serial inebriates” as “homeless.” The homeless are a diverse community who for obvious reasons do not want to be associated with the folks I wrote about last night.

    The serial inebriates (SI) are of course human beings who each have a story and have basic human and constitutional rights. But it is an undeniable reality that they can be intimidating and offensive to many of the patrons our downtown businesses are trying to cater to.

    The downtown business community is in their right to expect the city to provide a pedestrian environment that is safe and clean. This does not mean we need to turn downtown into the mall. It is public space. But we can have a reasonable set of standards.

    Last year when we were looking at a proposal to outlaw sleeping and lying on the sidewalk, I offered amendments to limit the ordinance to 12 feet of a business entrance. To me this was a reasonable compromise that did not criminalize the existence of the SI but protected the most basic expectations of those trying to run a downtown business.
    There was some irony that the progressives were accused of criminalizing SI when they voted for the substitute motion that was more lenient.

    The city is exploring a number of different approaches to the problems of homelessness and SI. One facet is stepping up the police presence in the downtown business district. As officer Pifari stated, this does not solve the problem of SI, it just moves it somewhere else. But moving the SI away from the shopping district is a reasonable thing to do. It doesn’t mean we need to hate them or wish them ill. On the contrary it creates a greater moral obligation to provide them somewhere else to go.

    If there are a few SI hanging around its no big deal. But when the numbers are so great that they become the dominant experience for a patron visiting our downtown, we have an unacceptable situation. The law enforcement response does nothing for the SI. It is all about the businesses and shoppers. Hopefully I will have something to report in the near future about what the city is doing to actually help these folks.

    Bob Jaffe

    • Lizard

      The serial inebriates (SI) are of course human beings who each have a story and have basic human and constitutional rights. But it is an undeniable reality that they can be intimidating and offensive to many of the patrons our downtown businesses are trying to cater to.

      the undeniable reality is alcohol produces negative behavior. obviously it’s more acceptable when that negative behavior comes from college kids or other people of means, and preferably after the sun goes down.

      If there are a few SI hanging around its no big deal. But when the numbers are so great that they become the dominant experience for a patron visiting our downtown, we have an unacceptable situation. The law enforcement response does nothing for the SI. It is all about the businesses and shoppers. Hopefully I will have something to report in the near future about what the city is doing to actually help these folks.

      so how many “SI’s” are there terrorizing downtown shoppers? saturday markets seem to be bustling, and the undesirables aren’t often visible. could it be there are other factors that have contributed to the economic decline of downtown business?

      since the problem is apparently getting so bad, i have a few suggestions: maybe grizzly liquor should sell them poisoned vodka. or maybe we should enlist grizzly football players to just beat the shit out of them, because they’re good at that kind of thing (i was once intimidated by a grizzly football player in a bar, so i therefore take that one experience and equate all grizzly football players with being violent thugs). or maybe we can set up something like that movie with ice t, called surviving the game, and kidnap these degenerates and take them deep into the woods to be hunted by wealthy big game hunters.

      hey, this sarcasm thing is great. it should be a rhetorical tool in every council person’s rhetorical toolbelt.

      on a serious note, i really do hope there will be something to report in the near future about what the city is doing to actually help these folks. alcoholism, mental illness, PTSD, and other factors is what puts people on the streets. and yes, despite what some may say about these people being rodents, they are in fact human beings.

      • mr benson

        I look at those programs from San Diego and other cities in California and understand why it is that California is totally, flat busted, bankrupt.

        Using taxpayer money to facilitate chronic drunks’ lifestyle is ridiculous.

        • Lizard

          california is not bankrupt because of social services. california is bankrupt because our national priorities are war and corporate enrichment.

    • JC

      Bob, you still don’t get it. You say:

      “serial inebriates… have basic human and constitutional rights.”

      No, they have FULL human and constitutional rights. The same as you and I. Your words, while you try to temper them, still reveal your “lesser than” sentiment towards serial inebriates.

      While I don’t like the term “serial inebriate”, as it lumps many people together, it is better than the ones that you used. Serial inebriates, too, represent a diverse community, coming to their condition from many different avenues.

      When I walk down the streets of downtown Missoula at night, I feel more afraid for my safety by the throngs of drunks (serial inebriates?) hanging out on the sidewalks, than I do walking the sidewalks during the day, when the drunk to sober ratio is far lower.

      But the hypocrisy of singling out one class of people (“serial inebriates”) for special police treatment–when our city essentially casts a blind eye to the problems of the nighttime downtown drinking crowd (which later turns into a DUI and driving menace crowd) because it is socially acceptable to be drunk if you have money–the hypocrisy is telling.

      I fought the panhandling ordinance partially because it violates equal protection rights of homeless and serial inebriates. If Missoula wants to enforce public intoxication laws, then it should do so across the board.

      But until Missoula has in place the services (social, health, etc.) that our residents need, the problem will not go away, no matter how much we try to “dial down the love” and shuffle the problem elsewhere. The same old “out of sight, out of mind” and “move it on down the road” approaches have not, do not, and will not work.

      And finally:

      “moving the SI away from the shopping district is a reasonable thing to do.”

      Why is this reasonable if it just moves the problem to a residential district. Or a school zone? Why does the shopping district have a greater expectation of freedom from our society’s problems than any other district?

      Is it really safer for our community and our children if a serial inebriate is sleeping in a residential alley than on a city sidewalk where at least they can be watched?

      What I hear from those who wish to move the problem elsewhere is that they really would rather that the problem moved to the graveyard. And that is really tragic.

      • Seth

        JC, you are being intentionally obtuse here.

        We all have full human rights. Those are our basic human rights.

        • JC

          “Full rights” and “No rights” are two poles in this dialog.

          “Basic rights” lies somewhere in between, depending on how tongue-in-cheek the correspondent is.

          Nothing obtuse about that. I’ve already said this blog is all about how we talk about these issues. When it comes to constitutional and human rights of the downtrodden, semantics is king. Particularly in the hands of policy makers.

    • While I’d love to have a more in depth discussion about this, Bob, I’m just pleased to see that you took time to respond to issues brought up here.

      I hope one thing the city can look into is how to bring detox capabilities back to Missoula. So much work can be done to help people if adequate tools are available. The first step with SIs is making sure they can kick booze without (honestly) dying, or being let loose from the hospital after three days still suffering from withdrawl. It’ll take time, and money, but change can happen. Not only for SIs but run-of-the-mill alcoholics who need help.

      I look forward to hearing your ideas.

  11. thanks bob. i took the liberty of using “the google” to search the term you are using and came up with an interesting website which may provide some potential solutions for our area. moving them down another street hardly seems to solve much and maybe we don’t have to reinvent the wheel here in missoula if we study how other places with more experience are handling the problem….

    http://www.sandiego.gov/sip/history.htm

  12. might i also add that we have most of the various components to help solve this problem in a humane way that may well lead to less taxpayer money being spent in the current vicious cycle of countless hours of our firemen, police, emt personnel to say nothing of emergency room visits, hospital care etc…

    only to have them wind up in the same shape.

    the poverello if expanded to a useable functional facility could serve as the hub of this program. according to the website it saves taxpayer dollars in the long run. might be worth a look by someone in our fair city. don’t you think mr jaffe?

  13. What is ridiculous is wasting more tax. Money on perpetuating the problem.

    Those programs do mot facilitate, goof. They rehabilitate. Big difference.

  14. Didn’t Billings have an experimental program with the chronically homeless? Whatever happened with that?

    http://4and20blackbirds.wordpress.com/2006/03/14/cutting-edge-billings-plan-to-end-chronic-homelessness/

  15. not all unemployed become homeless or become serial inebriates but this map shows we had better get prepared for an increase of both….

    http://cohort11.americanobserver.net/latoyaegwuekwe/multimediafinal.html

    i think that by delaying on supporting the poverello’s plans to provide a functional and workable plan to address this, the city is allowing missoula to fall even further behind the curve of need which coming at us like a tidal wave.

    the darker the map gets, the more we had better be preparing to address it before it is too late.

  16. Lizard

    for those who don’t visit the gutter-thought at missoulian.com, here are a few gems.

    a commentator who goes by petepete used the story of a transient who was recently murdered and dumped in a creek to make this lovely comment:

    Here we have to good examples of who the so-called ‘homeless’ really are in Missoula.

    The one victim, evidently a crimial is from Washington, in Missoula no doubt to get the free goodies our town is so willing to hand out to attract these types.

    The second victim HAS a family in the area – SO why is he homeless ? What does that tell you ?

    And before you say it let me say it for you – “there are truely needy and homeless people in Missoula” – I couldn’t agree more !

    But if you want to put that number in perspective – Why is it that everytime we read a story in the news about some “homeless” person, they always turn out to be, some out-of-state crimminal, someone with a family in the area, etc…

    Actually I don’t think I’ve read a story yet in the Missoulian about a homeless person who’s done a bad deed, or meet a bad ending, that really was what we would call “homeless”

    another person, who goes by happydays, commented on another story about the two deaths that happened last weekend:

    Thank you Poverello!! We appreciate all you do for missoula!!! With out you, pov, missoula would not be on the map as a tourist destination for murderers, rapist, drug dealers, panhandlers and convicts FRESH OUT OF PRISON. These rodents are not homeless nor do they represent what homelessness is. Stop calling these scoundrels homeless people. they are not. There are millions of people in this country who ALSO suffer from alcohol and drug addiction as well as mental illness, but they have the ability to still function in this world and not poop in public and panhandle. These other rodents are just no good useless jerks who take advantage of charities set up to help those who are less fortunate or going through a difficult time. Have a nice day!

    • during a bad economy some people look for scapegoats to lash out and the homeless present an easy target for them.

      it is important to remember that a few cowardly, ignorant people who are consumed with hate do not a majority make.
      most of us are supportive and concerned about the plight of the homeless. and most of us feel overwhelmed by the problem.

      whether you agree with him or not, it is good that people like bob jaffe care enough about the homeless to initiate the discussion. because we need to start somewhere in solving the problem. and if we can talk rationally and reach out to those who have more information i am sure we can find a way to solve this if we listen to each other.

      those who lash out with hate toward the homeless deserve to be ignored.

      • Lizard

        bob jaffe did not initiate this discussion. he snarked up his version of a modest proposal, and was called out on it. here is one of the pertinent line’s in his subsequent “clarification”

        It is all about the businesses and shoppers.

        i appreciate the honesty, and really don’t fault him. protecting the economic health of this city is his job, and it’s a difficult one. for every person pleased because of a decision from city council, there’s probably at least 10 people who are pissed. i get that.

        but there are legitimate concerns with how bob chose to articulate what happened at a committee meeting where “dealing with the homeless population” was discussed.

        at least bob is able to acknowledge he learned “that the Poverello staff do not appreciate it when I refer to the “serial inebriates” as “homeless.” ” unfortunately, now knowing his penchant for sarcasm, i wouldn’t take that acknowledgment seriously.

        lip service is easy, but action is difficult. like the mayor paying lip service to a shelter’s relocation effort, then tossing ‘em under the bus. the action in that case was to halt those efforts, and then pay lip service to a “needs assessment” and then, whenever that happens, i’m sure some other pressing need will materialize.

        anyways, summertime is not the time to be having this conversation. there are too many dirty street kids with their dogs and drunks slowly killing themselves (or being killed) and other nasty creatures shitting on the tourist draw to be able to have non-snarky conversation about “homelessness.”

        let’s just wait until the snow starts flying and the need for shelter becomes more dire and have a chat then.

  17. Lizard

    there is an interesting piece in today’s paper about the release of one of the more notorious street drunks after just one day in jail, instead of his court-ordered three day stint in jail. this highlights another factor in managing street drunks; the inability of fines and jail time to produce a strong enough deterrent to curb the behavior, and the unwillingness of law enforcement to house people who are chronic offenders.

    maybe it’s time to set up a physical perimeter around key shopping corridors, and issue “good citizen” id cards, so only good citizens can gain entry. merit-based access to retail shopping would enhance the consumer’s experience by protecting them from the ugly behavior of alcoholism, mental illness, and just plain nastiness.

    there should also be checkpoints set up for tourists coming through town, and presentations by downtown ambassadors about what a tourist should do if they find themselves outside the shopping corridor, in the urban wilds of transientville. complimentary cans of mace will conclude each presentation.

    for those tourists interested in a little adventure, they can take rides in safari-style jeeps through the wildlands, watching humans degrade themselves for booze and drugs. tourists can purchase little bottles of vodka, and toss them out at their discretion. not only could it be entertaining, but these rides could also double as warnings to the young ones about the ravages of substance abuse. schools could take field trips.

    you see, if we get creative, who knows what kind of intriguing solutions are possible.

    • JC

      Written in true Jaffe-ian style, liz!

  18. nothing is very possible law enforcement wise until we get rid of sheriff mcmeekin though…..

    http://missoulian.com/news/local/article_d3b19f28-97a3-11df-8292-001cc4c002e0.html

    sheriff mcmeekin takes the law into his own hands in the above article and ignores court orders.

    and another thing!

    if keila isn’t the best reporter in the state of montana i will eat this computer.

  19. Todd Frank

    It is dicussions like this that make me happy I live in Missoula and not Billings or Greatfalls. While the barbs tossed back and forth all have truth, the truth as Einstein said, really depends on your perspective. I am one of the downtown businesses who has struggled with SI folks downtown for a long time. Yes they affect behavorial changes and can be intimidating to folks who are perhaps more easily intimdated than those of you who have been posting notes. Myself and others in the Downtown Business community had the dicussion about the “where do they go if we force them out of downtown” We all realize they will not simple vanish for greener pastures.
    They desire to be downtown for 2 reasons (in my humble opinion). First it is easy access to services, (alcohol is just one of the services they need access to). Secondly, it is a target rich environment, that is lots of folks to ask for money. If no one gave them money it would make a huge difference in behavior. I have noticed more activity at the access points to the city (free way off ramps) and have thought perhaps it has become an easier place to ask for money than the new “get tough” downtown. I hope the discussion continues and we as a community can shape the nature missoula’s Personality. It sure ain’t Greatfalls. I also applaud Bob and the other Council memebers as well as the staff at the pov and the city for continuing to work on an issue that is going to be with us forever. with all respect
    Todd Frank

    • What business do you own sir because it has just become my favorite (Insert what you do).

      I hope you tell your friends your thoughts on this issue, especially point number two. I think that goes unnoticed by people, how Person A giving money only encourages the behavior (and how eventually when Person F tells someone, “No thanks” it can get ugly.)

      • todd is the owner of the trailhead folks. and i urge all of us to support this great business for many reasons – chief among them is that they have great stuff!

      • one of the best posts on homelessness i have ever seen…. hot off the interwebs!

        http://streetroots.wordpress.com/2010/07/28/homelessness-by-the-book/

        • Lizard

          thank you thank you for finding this link, pbear. this particular chunk popped out:

          Local municipalities have created laws that dehumanize and criminalize the masses locally who simply have no place left to go. County jails have become this country’s largest residential mental health facilities. Police enforcement has replaced treatment and courts are being staffed with social workers. Chambers of commerce spend as much as 74 percent of their budgets on private security and have become proficient in the business of drafting anti-homeless laws. Shelters have become an institutionalized tier of our country’s housing stock and social workers are expected to “fix” broken people rather than address social inequality and access to treatment. Homelessness has become institutionalized.

          yep. next idea, please. then there’s this:

          The media, in all its forms, delivers headlines by the second about natural disasters, the global economy and soldiers who die fighting for a war we barely understand. Meanwhile, in households from Peoria to Portland, the realities of daily life set in; loss of jobs, massive foreclosures, and the loss of unemployment benefits — ultimately, for hundreds of thousands of Americans, the loss of any safety net whatsoever. Homelessness.

          this resonates for me because i believe there has to be an effort to tie decades of policy to our current dire predicament. a lot of that poisonous policy can be traced back to reagan. yes it can.

          i hope people in this particular community can move beyond petty ideological conflicts and personal grudges to see there has to be some kind of investment in services that can address the national impoverishment we’re experiencing.

          and when i say personal grudges, i mean the griping and sniping of folks who confuse their personal dislike of certain individuals with the non-profits they represent.

          • someone should start a homeless blog in missoula lizard. any interest?

            • did you know there is human trafficking in america? http://www.ustream.tv/channel/invisblepeople-tv

            • Lizard

              yes. stay tuned.

  20. i wonder how many um students are in this predicament as well? http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=128778321&f=1001&sc=tw&utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

  21. Pogo Possum

    Instead of “Dial Down the Love” a better approach would be “Dial Down the Rhetoric – From All Sides”.

    Condemning anyone with a comment or criticism of the transient problem is no more constructive or helpful than those referring to transients as “rodents”. Lumping the SIs, 20 something aggressive Spangers, criminal element and out of state “homeless by choice” in with the families and individuals who have fallen on difficult times or have treatable mental problems and substance abuse is only adding to the increasing frustration by Missoulians and the downtown community who have to deal with the daily problems.

    I and many people, including a majority of the downtown business owners, support the Poverello’s mission. Our support is made more difficult when we are called names and insulted for bringing forth legitimate concerns and criticisms. This frustration is growing among even the Pov’s strongest advocates.

    I recently spent an hour listening to the frustrations expressed by a few members of the First Baptist Church over the Pov’s handling of the Salcido Center. Self described “Progressives”, they said they were strong supporters of setting up the Salcido Center when it was first proposed and they stressed their desire to aid members of their community in need. They are now frustrated that their efforts are made more difficult by the flood of out of state “urban campers”, criminal element and “professional transients” who flock to Missoula each summer to take advantage of the services they provide because the word is out that Missoulians are a soft touch. They are equally upset by community members who demonize them and refuse to acknowledge their concerns in spite of their hard labor and financial support.

    Unfortunately, some of the well intended people working to aid the homeless are also the ones complicating the process and turning supporters into opponents through their politically correct rhetoric and instant condemnation of anyone who dares voice a legitimate opinion or concern.

    • Lizard

      pogo says:

      Condemning anyone with a comment or criticism of the transient problem is no more constructive or helpful than those referring to transients as “rodents”. Lumping the SIs, 20 something aggressive Spangers, criminal element and out of state “homeless by choice” in with the families and individuals who have fallen on difficult times or have treatable mental problems and substance abuse is only adding to the increasing frustration by Missoulians and the downtown community who have to deal with the daily problems.

      lumping SI’s with the rest of the homeless population is exactly what bob did with his initial remark, which is why his “clarification” included a sort of apology to the pov staff who he upset with his comment.

      I and many people, including a majority of the downtown business owners, support the Poverello’s mission. Our support is made more difficult when we are called names and insulted for bringing forth legitimate concerns and criticisms. This frustration is growing among even the Pov’s strongest advocates.

      a majority of downtown business owners support the pov? that’s encouraging to hear. and who is calling you names? i would be curious to hear specifics. and if you think frustration is growing among the pov’s strongest advocates, imagine the frustration felt among those who work and live at the pov who not only face daily threats for enforcing their rules and regulations, but then get blamed by members of this community for attracting and perpetuating this problem.

      keila’s piece is absolutely critical because it highlights how our judicial system is cutting and running when it comes to penniless drunken chronic offenders. it’s not just businesses who suffer when obnoxious street drunks are cut loose early. some of those drunks were probably kicked out of the pov, so when they get released they probably go back there to harass staff.

      I recently spent an hour listening to the frustrations expressed by a few members of the First Baptist Church over the Pov’s handling of the Salcido Center. Self described “Progressives”, they said they were strong supporters of setting up the Salcido Center when it was first proposed and they stressed their desire to aid members of their community in need. They are now frustrated that their efforts are made more difficult by the flood of out of state “urban campers”, criminal element and “professional transients” who flock to Missoula each summer to take advantage of the services they provide because the word is out that Missoulians are a soft touch. They are equally upset by community members who demonize them and refuse to acknowledge their concerns in spite of their hard labor and financial support.

      the seasonal influx happens every damn summer. i don’t think that’s why first baptist decided to pull out. i think like anyone they got tired of seeing the chronic drunks hanging around their property, defiling it, and generally acting like the nuisances drunks tend to be (homeless or not).

      as for their “hard labor and financial support” the first baptist provided the space, which they charged over 2,500 hundred dollars a month for, according to the independent etc. thing a few weeks ago. they should be commended for opening up that space, and not demonized for terminating the lease, because it’s a tall order to they tried to fill.

      Unfortunately, some of the well intended people working to aid the homeless are also the ones complicating the process and turning supporters into opponents through their politically correct rhetoric and instant condemnation of anyone who dares voice a legitimate opinion or concern.

      so it’s the people working to aid the homeless who are complicating the process with politically correct rhetoric? who are you talking about? what are you talking about?

      i’ll tell you what complicates the process. unnecessary ordinances, revolving door jails, a broken health care system, a total lack of alcohol treatment options, too-generous missoulians who hand out money, bars and liquor stores who profit by keeping drunks drunk, a shitty economy, and politics. that’s what complicates the process.

  22. i agree pogo. we should acknowledge that local businesses have borne the brunt of this issue and most of those people who own businesses support the poverello. we should learn how to work together and listen to each other about this.

    if we do not learn from each other. then nothing is gained.

    • watching the video above it seems apparent that partnerships between the various agencies and the affected businesses like the cinema lady have been successful in reducing aggressive behavior.

      maybe bob jaffe would like to entertain an idea: forming a committee dealing with this issue that includes interested local business owners and employees of the businesses as well as agency heads and other interested stakeholders (including members of the homeless community) to suggest ways to improve the situation?

      it looks like the existing situation is becoming untenable, not to mention that the recent vagrancy law passed by the city council may not even be constitutional as jc suggested (based on what i have read in other cities like portland oregon)

      http://www.jstor.org/pss/793754

  23. Pogo Possum

    Agreed, PBear. I am giving you 5 Stars for that one.

  24. Lizard

    no one will give me any stars for this one, because it’s depressing.

    again, mike whitney lays it out. here is the first paragraph:

    The housing depression will last for a decade or more. This is by design. The Fed has been working with the banks to withhold inventory so prices do not fall too fast or too far. That way the banks can manage their write-downs without slipping into insolvency. But what’s good for the banks is bad for the country. Capital impairment at the banks means no credit expansion in the near-term. It means the economy will continue to contract, unemployment will remain high, and deflation will push down wages and prices. Everyone will pay for the mortgage-backed securities scam that was engineered by the banks.

    and here is the last one:

    There are remedies for our housing woes, but they require massive government intervention. Mortgages must be restructured in a way that keeps as many people as possible in their homes. That means bondholders and banks will have to take a sizable haircut, which is the way capitalism is supposed to work when risky investments blow up. The write-downs will force many of the banks into bankruptcy, so the Obama administration will have to resurrect the Resolution Trust Corporation (RTC) to resolve the banks, replace management, and auction off their downgraded assets. It’s all been done before. When the toxic assets and non performing loans have been purged from bank balance sheets, the banks will be able to fulfill their function as providers of credit to consumers, households and small businesses. Credit expansion will lower unemployment, reduce excess capacity and increase GDP. The economy will begin to grow again. Regrettably, Bernanke has chosen the path of deception and deflation.

    this is the national impoverishment that the states of our failing republic have to deal with. instead of forcing fiscal haircuts on wall street, we’ve allowed this scam to demolish the dream.

    people want to believe a recovery may happen in a couple of years, but current policies ensure recovery for us won’t happen, if it does, for maybe a decade.

    being without a home, without shelter, is becoming a much more common experience, and will only increase in the years to come. as problembear pointed out, there are more and more people who are invisibly homeless, and so don’t draw the attention to the increasing problem.

    • http://invisiblepeople.tv/blog/2010/07/rick-homeless-tunnels-las-vegas/

      http://invisiblepeople.tv/blog/2010/07/sergei-homeless-youth-salt-lake-city/

      • Lizard

        thanks for that, pbear.

        when i first moved to this town ten years ago this month, i came as a student to get my education. i spent a lot of money and got a degree, but for all that learning the real lessons came from outside academia.

        back then there was a homeless vet who was a fixture on the footbridge crossing the clarkfork to campus. he drew these little ink drawings with tiny-tipped micron pens and sold them for 10 bucks a pop.

        his name was tommy (not the leprechaun) and he was quite a person. i talked to him a lot in the two years i knew him, and found him to be an interesting, proud individual. in the summertime, when the seasonal drunks blew through town, he would get pissed because they trashed the area he considered home. he took pride in keeping a clean camp, and was proud that he lived year-round outside.

        tommy was a big part of my education, and the major reason i chose to become more involved in this community by volunteering at the pov. and it’s that kind of direct experience i wish more people had when it comes to, in bob’s word, “dealing with the homeless population.”

        • if anyone wants to find out more about the many issues of homelessness from a positive mentor who is devoting his life to making the many faces of the homeless visible and therefore, worthy of our attention, please follow this site….

          http://twitter.com/invisiblepeople

          if you are overwhelmed by the problem, this organization will change your attitude. i highly recommend everyone take a look at it once in a while.

  25. Pogo Possum

    “a majority of downtown business owners support the pov?”

    You need to brush up on your donor lists for the Pov, Lizard? Where do you think a vast amount of the financial support comes from?

    Check out the Pov’s donor list sometime and you will see a long list of businesses and the names of individuals who are either business owners or who work for the small downtown and local area businesses. The Pov is a few years behind on posting their newsletter on line so I had to go back to 2007. Check out the donor list on the last few pages…….its rather long: http://www.thepoverellocenter.org/pdf/june%202007%20newsletter.pdf

    I recognize a lot of the individual names and the business community as well as diverse political beliefs are well represented.

    The Pov does an excellent job thanking the local businesses that provide support in almost every newsletter. Here is what they had to say about the Town Pump in one issue:
    “The Town Pump Charitable
    Foundation hopes to raise
    more than $1.25 million this
    year during its seventh annual
    fundraising campaign
    for Montana food banks and
    shelters, including the Poverello
    Center, the Missoula Food
    Bank and the Missoula 3:16 Rescue Mission.
    The “Be A Friend in Deed, Helping Those in Need”
    campaign raised more than $1.1 million last year, and has
    raised more than $3.1 million for food banks statewide in
    the campaign’s six years.”

    And here is what a commentator at Missoula Red Tape had to say about Missoula businesses when store owners complained about individuals blocking doors, intimidating customers, deficating and vomiting on their door steps and giving shoppers an excellent reason to drive to the Mall or Reserve Street to spend their dollars that storeowners need to pay rent and pay employees:

    ““But what do the downtown business owners want the police to be focused on? Keeping those unsightly homeless people away from their businesses so that summer tourists can keep spending money downtown. The downtown business owners should be ashamed of themselves.”

    I can find you lots of other quotes that copy that same sentiment toward businesses including ones on 4&20blackbirds.

    I am well aware that volunteers for the Pov and other service organizations take verbal criticism from the public. Having been employed by a non-profit in the past and sat on a lot of non-profit boards and committees over the years so I have received my share of criticism and misdirected insults by frustrated people. I also know that part of my job as a member of these non-profits is to listen to those critics, sort out the cranks from the reasonable people with serious concerns, find common ground and solutions to problems to advance the goals of the organizations, and be a spokesman for those non-profits.

    Criticizing business people and their employees with legitimate concerns, even when those concerns are expressed with anger and frustration, is not productive and only ads more fuel to the fire. Missoula citizens, even those you disagree with, still need to be respected and listened to if the Pov and other social service organizations want to succeed.

    • Lizard

      pogo, i’m not saying there is not support among local businesses of the pov’s mission. but would you deny the existence of a group of businesses who are actively lobbying against the pov’s relocation efforts?

      and i would also like you to clarify who you think is criticizing business people and their employees with legitimate concerns. your vague insinuations are not productive, though trust me, i catch your drift.

      and why would you imply that missoula citizens are not being listened to? were ordinances not passed based on the frustrations of local businesses? if those ordinances have not been successful, then maybe efforts should be directed toward figuring out why they have been utter failures.

      listen, pogo, local businesses have the ears of city council, obviously. and local businesses have the ear of the mayor as well, judging from his efforts to halt the pov’s plans to relocate. and obviously some concerned folks at first baptist have your ear, pogo. i wonder, though, in your conversations with them, if they ever mentioned all that money they were getting paid.

      and don’t think i don’t hear or understand the frustrations people have. i had some drunken gutter-punk looking kid leer at me through his pseudo-hippie squalor and flip me off for no good reason as i was walking downtown with my son in broad daylight. did that piss me off? yes it did. public drunkenness is a nuisance, and especially not appreciated during daylight business hours. but what pissed me off was the kid’s behavior. i try to not take isolated incidents and use them to attack a group of people who are, let’s face it, living pathetic gutter lives of utter degradation.

      on a positive note, i’m going to go buy something at the trailhead tomorrow. todd’s comment was much appreciated, and reflects what you say, pogo, that there are local businesses that support the pov.

  26. Pogo Possum

    ”i wonder, though, in your conversations with them, if they ever mentioned all that money they were getting paid.”

    They did discuss it Lizard and they told me the Pov was months behind on payments and still owes them money that they do not expect to receive. They also told me that they were deeply disappointed in the Pov over the whole management of the Center. They told me that what the Pov promised them (career and drug counseling for Center visitors and supervision of people) either never happened or was sketchy at best.

    Your comments that they were upset by the seasonal drunks defiling their property and causing problems are spot on. However it is important to note they were equally upset with the Pov. They didn’t care about the money and they were insulted by people insinuating that is why they opened the Center. They were trying to do what they thought was right and still support the Pov’s mission though not every decision the Pov makes.

    They also said that based on their experiences with the Pov they strongly opposed opening a new larger Pov facility in downtown Missoula. In short, they said if they build it, more out of town homeless by choice, “urban campers”, professional panhandlers and “summer drunks” would be drawn to Missoula to further overload the services provided to people in the Missoula community who needed assistance.

    I agree with them and believe Mayor Engen is right in telling the Pov to reconsider the plan to expand their downtown operation.

    And speaking about the “gutter punk kid on the street” you mentioned…….what is up with the overly aggressive 20 something year old kids coming to Missoula each summer to panhandle? One of these kids told me last week they are just “spanging” and traveling around for the summer and are in town because Missoula is known as an easy mark with lots of free social services and people to give them money. He said they were getting free meals at the Pov and “lots of free stuff” from all over town.

    Last year I watched a couple of these out of town college age kids try to wrestle a hot dog from a teenage girl’s hand when a cop happened to be in the right place at the right time and lined them up against the curb. When the police officer sat them on the sidewalk and had them show their IDsw, each kid pulled out a wallet stuffed with wads of $20 dollar bills, a California drivers license and a stack of credit cards. They were arrogant and insulting to both the police officer and the girl they tried to mug for a hot dog.

    People is Missoula, as a whole, are generous and willing to help those truely in need. Both business people and downtown pedistrians have a legitimate complaint when they want to see an end to the out of state spangers, seasonal drunks and professional overly aggressive panhandlers.

    • Lizard

      yeah, the Salcido Drop-In Center seems like it’s been a challenge for everyone involved, and i think folks may have had some unrealistic expectations about what could be accomplished. it certainly doesn’t help when a program loses its funding early in the game, putting it on life support.

      but i personally think to take the challenge of serving the most chronic, marginalized folks in this community was a worthy attempt, and blaming the pov for not fixing enough street drunks is a little disingenuous, considering the lack of financial support by the city and the state.

      i also think that folks from first baptist need to see the bigger picture instead of taking their experiences with the drop-in center and saying because that program struggled, building a new pov shouldn’t happen. again, the summertime influx happens every year, and by the time the snow starts flying a lot of the out-of-state “spangers” leave town. and when the snow starts flying, the pov will face what it did last year; 20-30 people over capacity every night.

      that is the reality that will happen again this winter, and no one, including the mayor, seem to have any idea about what to do about this COMMUNITY problem. instead the mayor has blocked the attempt of the pov to provide a more appropriate facility. just saying no won’t make the problem go away. and no one is stepping up to the plate to provide shelter for the folks who might have to be turned away this winter from the pov.

      do you have any suggestions about what to do with them, pogo?

    • Lizard

      i also noticed you didn’t deny the existence of a concerted effort by some businesses to keep the pov from relocating.

    • P&I

      “They told me that what the Pov promised them (career and drug counseling for Center visitors and supervision of people) either never happened or was sketchy at best.”

      I know that the Salcido Center contacted our P&I services for Western Montana NA. We talked with them about providing some presence in the Salcido, but ultimately decided to not participate for a variety of reasons.

      The first reason was not having enough service volunteers to guarantee a regular commitment. We also didn’t feel that it was a safe environment to place people who were in early recovery, and we don’t have enough service volunteers with long term recovery that felt they could commit to the Center. We also were uncomfortable with what was asked of us: to provide one on one contact; and to hold regular meetings (which we felt in a “wet house” was not the best thing for us to do).

      So while the Pov and Salcido may have had the best intentions going in, and made bone fide efforts to provide services by involving the greater service communities, it ultimately was those outside services that either responded to the call, or didn’t–for whatever reasons.

      Again, this points to the absolute need for the Missoula community to step up however it can to provide the variety of services needed to give the clients of the Pov and Salcido a “hand up” and out of the situation they are in, whatever that situation may be.

      The Pov and Salcido do not have the means to independently provide needed resources in Missoula to all the different demands. So it is disingenuous to put all the responsibility on them when the problem doesn’t recede, or there are issues at places like the Salcido.

      NA used to conduct meetings at the Pov in the past, but discontinued them because residents of the Pov were not taking advantage of them, and some regular town members were uncomfortable having to wade through the house “issues” to conduct and/or attend meetings. So we made a decision to focus our efforts elsewhere. It’s the same old story: “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him quit using…”

      Great thread, by the way! Keep up the dialog.

      • thanks P&I.

        with substantive and excellent comments coming from all parties i am heartened by the response from the community in contributing to this discussion.

        speaking for myself, i am learning a lot from the pros both here and in other cities accross the west. i look forward to the new blog that lizard is working on so that we may learn more from each other.

        the perspective brought by pogo possum has enlivened this thread and, again in my opinion, shed light on the point of view of our much beleaguered small business people in the downtown community trying to survive a recession.

        i also appreciate everyone’s contribution here who must deal first hand and one on one with the homeless. someone close to the front lines of homelessness has a view of things that we supporters on the outside need to see to fully appreciate the problem.

        i hope that by looking at this elephant together, we can come to some understanding of a beginning toward a solution. thanks to jc and even bob jaffe also for initiating the discussion. it is one of the most substantive threads i have ever had the pleasure of participating in.

    • Pogo Possum,

      Your comments are kind hearted and I can tell they come from a genuine and wise place. Thank you for your sensitivity to the enormously difficult job the staff of the Pov takes on 24 hours a day.

      Some of the perceptions you have been given above, while well meaning, are frankly not accurate.

      For example, while we are enormously appreciative to First Baptist Church for the use of their daylight basement, the Pov is actually current on our $2000-$2500 a month rent to them. We were told that they were not renewing our lease because they, “had a change in mission”, and we certainly understand that this is a tremendously difficult population to host.

      Further, our organization does not wish to expand our services in this community. We simply wish to get people off the streets, off the floors, and into housing.

      Currently, the Pov’s Ryman Street emergency shelter has 70 emergency shelter beds yet last winter slept over 70 individuals 152 nights. The facility violates fire code regulations when it sleeps over 100 individuals. It slept over 100 individuals 36 nights. When the facility sleeps over 70 people, the overflow individuals sleep on the cafeteria floor and in hallways. It cannot be emphasized enough that the demand for overnight shelter and essential services provided by the Poverello Center to the hungry and homeless in the region is unparalleled.

      I would love to buy you coffee sometime and learn more about your perspective. It certainly is a good one, and I hope you will take the opportunity to meet me and our staff. We’d love to give you a quick look inside the walls of albatross on Ryman Street. There is no doubt its deficiencies are “part of the problem”. That said, the Poverello Center did not create homelessness in this nation, nor can we alone provide the solutions.

      My email address is: elliehill@montana.com

      And now I must head back to our annual staff retreat with Amie Thurber from NCBI!

      Best always, Ellie

  27. JC

    I think a good idea would be for Missoula to focus on a satellite facility for the Pov for transitional housing needs for Missoula families, and individuals with fewer problems or needs. We’ve got the Joseph residence and Valor House already, but they just provide for the needs of a few.

    When you look at the problems the Pov serves, and the variety of people and needs, you realize that their are some people that just use the Pov to further their own agenda. But there are many more people who either have run out of choices, or are incapable of making good healthy choices that are in constant need of services in order to survive. And if given some safe transitional housing outside of the downtown, could pick up the pieces of their lives and move forward.

    So I think maybe it makes sense for the Pov to relieve its overcrowding and stress on its downtown services by expanding in another location, and expanding in a way that does not attract those who come to Missoula to prey on downtown visitors and businesses. But it ultimately is up to the Missoula community to envision how it wants to deal with the myriad of problems it has, and empower the Pov to meet community needs. But first the community needs to redefine those needs, create some priorities and find ways and means to solve those problems.

    Ultimately, I think, a transitional facility for families and individuals without serious mental health or addiction problems is a worthy goal. A hundred beds or so.

    Next, we need a treatment facility that can provide more than a spin dry approach to addiction and/or mental health issues. The Providence Center is doing great things, but when they closed their Addiction Treatment Program, the community suffered a huge loss. The ability to treat hundreds of individuals/year was lost. ATP saved thousands of lives and families over the years. One only needed to go to an alumni banquet (when they still held them) to see the impact they had on the community.

    Missoula needs a treatment facility that can provide 25 beds at least for inpatient treatment after detox. The county could probably use one 2 or 3 times that size judging by what I see around town, but a more modest effort would have a profound impact on the community. And the area needs to have much greater access to, and provisions for mid-long term outpatient and walk-in services, and crises services. While Western Montana Mental Health and the Providence Center are doing great things, the need far exceeds their capacity and funding to serve the community.

    And finally, Missoula needs some kind of economic development plan that caters to the needs of people in transitional crisis. Good jobs that provide a stepping stone out of homelessness, mental illness, and addiction. They don’t have to be high paying jobs, or anything like that. Even doing a variety of community service would do, coupled with minimum wage jobs.

    If our Mayor and City Council/County Commission really wanted to do something about these problems, they would get out ahead of the issues, and provide some leadership and vision. But alas, fall is coming soon, and the wave of highly visible downtown problems will recede into memory with a sigh of relief, as people go on their merry ways. But the undercurrent of Missoula ills will still be with us, as they are not transient, but are part of our community–highly visible or not.

  28. a commercial fisherman once told me if you are spending too much of your time mending nets and dodging snags, it might be a good time to cut the engines back a little and plot a new course.

    seems like we have torn some nets around here and it might be time for mental health professionals, non-profits, business leaders, city mayor and county officials, the city police chief and county sheriff, emt’s, hospitals and emergency room staff,
    to gather around a table and plot a new course which deals with this problem in a cohesive, unified fashion.

    many other municipalities around the west are in the same boat and much could be learned by reaching out to a few of those good people in other communities who are finding better ways to deal with homelessness.

    the piece meal approach to this problem is not going to come close to meeting the needs of our community if this map is any indication of what to expect in terms of unemployment,

    foreclosures and more people out in the street trying to figure out a way to survive the recession.

  29. Chuck

    Maybe The Pov’s mission this year should be to scale back their services. We already know that there will not be enough beds this winter so why doesn’t The Pov broadcast that news far and wide, budget for some travel vouchers and let the transients use the next several months to find resources in a more prosperous community.

  1. 1 ” We need to find a different solution” « 4&20 blackbirds

    [...] on with our annual discussion about the conflict downtown–spurred on by City Councilor Bob Jaffe’s remarks on his listserve– between shoppers, tourists, visitors and businesses vs. the homeless, [...]




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