Archive for July 7th, 2008

by Jay Stevens

Given the city’s new emphasis on cracking down on downtown panhandling through the civic program “Real Change, Not Spare Change” and increased police patrols, a lot of folks are going to need a place to go during the day.

Enter the Poverello Center, which was looking to lease a building to host a satellite day center – a place where the homeless and indigent could go and receive food, counseling, addiction recovery, health care, AIDS tests, etc & co.

The Pov planned to lease 506 Toole for the center.

Neighbors raised concerns, and the city hosted a neighborhood meeting to discuss the new center, where all h*ll broke out. The Pov passed on the lease to the site and likely lost some of its 2008 grant money because of the delay. A Szpaller report last week detailed the clear need for the programs that the Pov would offer; but it’s fair to say the Pov’s attempt to set up the facility has been somewhat of a PR disaster.

I’m not sure if there’s an easy solution here. As someone who lives two doors down from a poorly managed halfway house – with fireworks at 2am, music and shouting and fights, and residents occasionally wandering onto my property — I understand the neighborhood’s concerns with the proposed new day center. But there’s no doubt as to the need:

An estimated 12 to 20 individuals are turned away at the Poverello Center each day because they are intoxicated; the roughly 50 people who sleep there each night are required to leave – rain, snow or shine – every morning at 7:30; after lunch, some 150 people leave the building due to lack of space; and the Pov turns away four to six families each week who are looking for emergency shelter.

The Pov is a well-managed institution; there’s no doubt a day center opened under its aegis won’t have the same problems I see. And hopefully, the Pov’s approach to working with neighbors and their concerns will see a good result and help both Missoula’s homeless population and the panhandling problem at the north end of Higgins.

As our towns and cities increase in density in a natural reaction to rising gas prices, you’ve got to think this kind of tension between neighborhoods and the centers that provide services for the poorest among us is only going to increase. (A social problem that I’d love to see discussed on Discovering Urbanism.) Sure, you could argue that the close proximity of the homeless in neighborhoods would go a long way in demystifying the poor and repairing some of the institutionalized antipathy towards poverty that suburbs, with its inhabitants tucked safely away from the bumps and bruises of everyday life, create. But how do we do better at it?

by Pete Talbot

Writer Bill Vaughn has a dick noir story over at Dark Acres that I’m enjoying immensely. It stars a seedy private detective (a la James Crumley) and features lots of Missoula landmarks. I love the art, too — pulp-like watercolors of the Turf and Flame and Flamingo Lounge by an artist named Ray Ottulich. Maybe one of Missoula’s many galleries will host an exhibition of Ottulich some day.

Anyway, parts one through four are online and Vaughn promises, “ … more tomorrow, or maybe the next day.”

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