Some Stories About Homelessness

by lizard

Build it and they will come…

That is the refrain of fear repeated by some of the people who have opposed the efforts of the Poverello Center’s relocation to West Broadway.

If you’ve driven along West Broadway in the past month, you’ve probably noticed the building part is well under way. As for those who may come and sully our fair city, the Poverello Center has been breaking records for overnight occupancy, exacerbated by the first real cold snap of the winter season. “They” are already here.

Who “they” are is a collection of stories as various as the individual experiences those stories are derived from, and the more stories that can be told, the better our community will understand what factors in to periods of homelessness people experience.

In a Kaimin feature piece published a few weeks ago, a student told his story about choosing to live in a tent at an undisclosed spot along the Kim Williams trail.

Build it and they will come is not a phrase commonly associated with the University, but getting an education is what brought Erik Lembke from Vermont to Montana, and the cost of housing is what factored in to Lembke deciding not to bother with the hassle and camp instead.

The Kaimin article is a good read, but it’s a story filtered through the lens of a student reporter.

For a first person account, I highly recommend reading 7 Things No One Tells You About Being Homeless. Though the Montana town featured in this article is never explicitly named, I suspect it’s Missoula. The article has nearly 1.5 million views.

Homelessness is an incredibly complicated issue that is almost never served well by local media depictions. The Missoulian has done an especially piss-poor job of reporting on this issue, over-utilizing the now pejorative term TRANSIENT in most of its reporting.

As we near a holiday that should conjure thankfulness for things like living inside, eating good food, and spending time with friends and family, I hope my fellow Missoulians will make an effort to move beyond the fear and stereotypes associated with homelessness to see human stories as various as the lived experiences they come from.

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  1. JC

    Coming soon to a community near you: Securitized rental markets.

    “It’s kind of like medieval Europe, where a few large financial institutions own everything, and we just rent from them.”

    As if our local rental property management monopoly hasn’t taken enough toll on people’s lives by pushing rental prices and accessibility through the roof — now we have to deal with this.

    NeoFeudalism at it’s worst.

    • In 2001 I moved down to live behind Shopko and the apartment cost $550 a month. I now live in the exact same buildings and they’re $665.

      I’ve spent hours crawling around the baseboards, checking in the fridge, and poking around in the fuse box – for the life of me I can’t figure out where those extra $115 improvements are!’

      But it’s worth it, because I know that my property place cares about me a lot. No one has my best interests more at heart than they do. After all, they’re kind enough to make me pay another $120 a year for rental insurance! Boy, it feels good to have a loving landlord and master.

      • Pogo Possum

        You should send a thank you card to your landlord, Greg, and ask to sign a long term lease. He/she is being very generous with you.

        A rental increase of $115 over 12 years is only 21% or an Annual Compounded Rate increase of 1.59% per year. Missoula City’s general fund budget went up 30% during the same period. Your landlord’s property tax went up more than that.

        Add on the annual increased cost of sewer, maintenance, insurance and labor (I am assuming you are paying utilities – if not add that to the total cost) and you are getting a bargain. If the city forced your landlord to pay for a new sidewalk during that time you really got a bargain.

        Missoula County has one of the highest median property taxes as a percentage of median income in the United States ranking 374 out of 3,143 counties. That puts us in the top 11% of counties in the nation.

        Missoula property taxes are scheduled to go up 3.2% in 2014 so expect a rental increase next year.

        • Bummer, thankfully like thousands of others in the city my pay will go up to meet that.

        • lizard19

          everything seems to go up, but wages. weird.

        • Seriously though, good analysis Pogo – thanks for that info.

          When I was living across the Orange Street bridge I paid $400 for rent and after 3 years it went up to $415. I wasn’t too happy at the time, but I’m sure most would love to see an increase so low.

      • Crow

        Perhaps the landlord’s property taxes have been raised nearly every single year since you moved in. Maybe your landlord needs to absorb the recent doubling of the transit district levy. Since 2001, the city has added a park district and road district to your landlord’s taxes too. Your rent has increased about 20%, or 1.6% per year. Your landlord’s taxes have likely increased at twice that rate.

        • I’d love to see how their profits or losses have fared as well.

  2. d.g.

    Sucking $24,000.00 per month from the city budget, Missoula’s 12 council members make these decisions. Step to the microphone for exactly 3 minutes at exactly 7 p.m. each Monday and you can change the world that is Missoula. Tonight: Can a prose poem help stop pesticide abuse in local parks? Be there to find out!

    • Ha!

  3. Big Swede

    I’ve always thought that the homeless could possibly escape dire poverty by letting them sell their organs.

    A healthy kidney would make a sizable down on a double wide.

  4. My wife volunteers at a homeless shelter, and we both really appreciate every bit of awareness brought to their plight. Well done!

  5. Billings Dad

    They (the homeless) would be better off moving to a warmer climate.

  6. lizard19

    Missoula police to patrol downtown more if council OKs panhandling law update.

  7. d.g.

    So we pay snowboarding, summa cum laude Jason Weiner (from his adolescent website resume) $24,000.00 per year to miss a lot of meetings and chair the committee du jour “Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness” (a package deal much like “Graduation Matters”) and he hides behind his ersatz homeless beard and refuses to challenge the Missoula Downtown Association on their 20-year record of profiling the homeless as aggressive panhandlers. Go figure. Follow the money to Jackson Street where this poser laughs all the way to the bank.

    • lizard19

      Jason has been a great advocate for Missoula’s homeless population, d.g. how about you?

  8. d.g.

    has this lizard guy ever spoken at city council?

    • lizard19

      yes, I have.

  9. lizard19

    I’ll be writing about this later, but for now I’ll put the link here: More Cities Sweeping Homeless Into Less Prominent Areas

  1. 1 Don’t Feed the Bea—I Mean Homeless | 4&20 blackbirds

    […] conventional housing are mentally ill addicts with criminal histories. The stories I highlighted in this post exemplified how some younger people have experienced […]




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