Neighborhoods versus the indigent: the story of the Pov’s proposed day center

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?

  1. Living dead center in the middle whole hubbub, I still only find one valid point that my histrionic neighbors and friends have when it comes to their opposition to the day center: increased congregation on the railroad pedestrian overpass. This could be easily addressed via some simple policy changes, increased police patrols, etc… Other than that, having intoxicated people at a day center in my neighborhood is a lot better than having them on my porch–a scenario I find with quite a bit of frequency this time of year.

    Despite our neighborhood proudly branding itself as Missoula’s progressive core, now that things have gentrified a bit and the ‘hood is looking nice again, people are apparently willing to set their pragmatic and liberal values aside when it doesn’t suit them. The situation reminds me a bit of the University Area Homeowners Association’s constant flare ups with students. Homeowners love all the amenities of living in proximity to the U and all it offers–if only they didn’t have to have those pesky students around.

    The Northside/Westside residents get to live close to downtown and all it offers. They also get relatively cheaper mortgages due to the railroad, the older houses, etc… If only they didn’t have to deal with the parts of downtown life that aren’t so pleasant.

    Maybe we should adopt Bozeman’s policy and put these people on the bus to the next town down the line? The whole thing has made me embarrassed for all of us Missoulians.

  2. JC

    Let’s start with “well-managed institution.” A well managed institution doesn’t allow their executive director to say things like “I didn’t imagine that there would be naysayers in the service community.”

    Referring to fellow service providers as “naysayers” isn’t going to get the Pov very far with this controversy. And it has offended a lot of people (myself included, for the volunteer work I do with addiction and mental health services).

    It is an attitude like this that allows the Pov to apply for a grant without involving the community and invites problems, and then turn around and wonder why people are upset.

    Now let me say straight-up that I’m not opposed to the Pov’s Day Center. I only live a few blocks away, and pass through the area frequently, and over the footbridge. It would be nice to have some transparency about what the Pov’s plans are, and how they are going to carry them out.

    What I wonder about is how they are going to structure their treatment regiment, when they are going to have a bunch of “wet” patrons. A wet house is a difficult place to render treatment, and it takes a very specific treatment philosophy to be effective, or you end up with a lot of problems (though a wet house is far different from the halfway house you’re having problems with Jay).

    You don’t treat the alcoholic at the bar, or when he’s just walked out of it. You don’t treat the drug addict when he’s high. The kinds of treatment that many of these individuals need just aren’t available through a wet house, when what is needed is accessible and available treatment centers to get these people into. And once individuals leave treatment, where is the transitional housing for them? Or do we just dump them back out on the streets to fend for themselves?

    But another major problem is with the concept of the “Real Change” program. Real change can only truly happen when the root problems of homelessness (and pandhandling and all the associated problems) are addressed, and I haven’t seen much indication that the “Real Change” program does anything to address root causes (poverty, addiction, mental health illness, job loss, etc.). Most of the Real Change ad campaign by Coach Hauck et al. is just a bunch or feel-good pablum.

    Eric Taylor had a good guest editorial in the Missoulian last week, “It’s time to meet the real needs of our community” that takes a good look at the problem.

  3. Now, I thought the Missoula 3:16 Rescue Mission was happy to have the Pov add a drop-in center?

    And, if you say we need to address the root problems, wouldn’t a drop-in center with counselling etc & co do a lot more than, say, a food bank, towards curing some folks with addiction, and helping those that are mentally ill?

    And wouldn’t the drop-in center give a place for folks who are chased away from downtown by police patrols and the “Real Change” program?

    Help me understand the problem here. Because from where I’m sitting I’m not sure what the complaints are — other than Taylor questioning the efficacy of a new drop-in center…that seems needed…is he worried about funds? Does he want some other type of center?

  4. JC

    Ummm… Jay, you can’t cure addiction. You can treat it, given that the client accepts treatment and there are facilities and funding available.

    Root problems are not addressed in a social services facility, they are addressed by society as a whole. Social services like the Pov, Food Bank, etc. treat the immediate symptoms of the indigent, addicted and mentally ill.

    I think that the larger problem here is that your statement “Help me understand the problem here,” points directly to the larger problem: most people don’t understand mental illness, addiction, and the indigent. And I fear that many of our community leaders and townspeople are afraid to have the bigger discussion.

    Like how do we provide for and fund addiction treatment services? How do we fund and provide the services and facilities necessary (like transitional housing and vocational training/rehab) to move people from poverty and homelessness to one of being productive community members?

    While I can’t answer your question about all the complaints of others, what I can say is that the Pov plan opens up a can of worms in this community. Worms that have been buried for far too long.

  5. Ummm… Jay, you can’t cure addiction. You can treat it, given that the client accepts treatment and there are facilities and funding available.

    You can tell this isn’t my expertise!

    That said…I’m still a little confused. You say we desperately need treatment and rehabilitation centers to treat and help the homeless lead productive lives…and yet the Pov drop-in center seems to provide more of the service you’re asking for…yet the idea is getting trashed by you and Taylor.

    That’s what confuses me.

    I mean, shouldn’t you all be thrilled the Pov got a grant? And that it was going to open another drop-in center? If Taylor et al. thought the idea wasn’t perfect, wouldn’t constructive and positive feedback be more useful to the Pov and community? Instead, they basically got blocked out of the site and lost some of their funding…

    So…what’s the real issue here?

  6. So are you arguing that because we can’t fix all of ills that have plagued society since the dawn of modern civilization, we shouldn’t do anything at all?

    When you’re talking about co-occurring disorders like those you mentioned, isn’t a good thing that the Pov would be at least providing a place where people could get some basic health screen, mental health referrals, etc…?

    Perhaps the Pov did open a can of worms with the day center, but it’s not their mess to clean up. When a doctor opens a new practice in Missoula, is it their responsibility to fix the health care problems we face? Should Turning Point never expand their programs because they can’t end chemical dependency?

    Every social worker in the world would like to work their way out of job–but humanity simply doesn’t work that way.

  7. JC

    Nick, no that’s not what I’m arguing.

    As to co-occuring disorders, I’m not convinced that the Pov has a program that is going to accomplish much. I’d like to believe otherwise, but information about the program has been less than forthcoming.

    I’m kind of passing on the sense of a bunch of individuals (some who’ve worked at the Pov, some who’ve worked at W. Montana Mental Health Services, some who are recovering addicts and homeless individuals who’ve been through “the experience”) who are debating just what running a “wet house” will accomplish. Not that they shouldn’t do it.

    The “can of worms” I was speaking about isn’t of the Pov’s making. But when you say “get a mental health referral,” just exactly how does an indigent go about that? Missoula has a HPSA (health care provider shortage area) designation now due to severe lack of mental health professionals to treat patients properly. Missoula lost the Addiction Treatment Program a few years back. Missoula has failed to get one of the 7 new treatment facilities that the state leg funded last session (now there’s some real politics). Getting mental health care, particularly for an unemployed homeless person, on an ongoing and meaningful basis is extremely difficult in Missoula Montana.

    I didn’t mean to imply that because you can’t cure addiction that services shouldn’t expand. I was pointing out the fact that even good-intentioned, intelligent people like Jay can have mistaken ideas about the nature of, and treatment for co-occuring disorders (or dual diagnoses, or the presence of both mental illness and addiction, for those of you who may be wondering).

    I totally agree that the world would be a better place if social workers could work their way out of a job. But it isn’t going to happen, unfortunately. But I don’t want to be labelled a “naysayer” like many of my friends were, just for expressing a concern that the Pov failed to work with the community and the local neighborhood before committing itself to a new program.

  8. But I don’t want to be labelled a “naysayer” like many of my friends were, just for expressing a concern that the Pov failed to work with the community and the local neighborhood before committing itself to a new program.

    Yeah, I have to agree, that was mishandled. I guess that was the point of the post: how do you handle a move of a drop-in facility well?

  9. goof houlihan

    I don’t really understand it, and yes, I suppose it’s because I’m from bus ticket Bozeman. This kind of hangout would have problems fitting into any residential zoning in Bozeman. It’s not going to fit under the residential exclusions that halfway houses and similar live in treatment facilities would qualify for.

  10. I’m not absolutely familiar with the zoning in that neighborhood, but it’s definitely not purely residential. It’s flush up against the railroad tracks, and there are a lot of businesses mixed with apartments buildings and houses. Isn’t there industrial use there, too?

  11. JC

    It’s zoned “D”, commercial. So Zoning isn’t a problem. MOst of the land around the tracks is a D zone, including the hovel I live in, nearby.

    Jay, you can get a coy of the Missoula zoning map at:

    If you go to you’ll find a wealth of docs to download.

  12. JC

    I think the long url broke the machine. Here it is again:

    Missoula zoning map-large pdf

  13. goof houlihan

    Okay, that clears it up. If the zoning fits, well, it sounds like the facility wouldn’t even require a conditional use, it would be a use by right.

  14. petetalbot

    I got into a heated discussion about the drop in center with a very progressive north side resident. While he’s a long time supporter of the Pov, he’s opposed to the “wet” day center that’s proposed next to the north side walking bridge.

    I suppose that there’s some NIMBY in his argument but then show me a residential district in Missoula that embraces the idea of a place for drunks in its neighborhoods.

    The guy I was talking to, like JC, says we need to have a bigger discussion and more real solutions to the homeless/mentally ill/addicted conundrum.

    But while we’re having this discussion, there’s still the problem of the homeless sleeping on downtown sidewalks, panhandling and basically making the downtown business district an uncomfortable place to visit. I have great sympathy for the downtown business owner who has to compete with Reserve St. and the shopping malls that don’t have homeless and transient problems. As I’ve said before, a downtown defines a city.

    One thing that might mitigate the problem would be to expand the services and size of the Poverello Center itself but that, too, has met with some opposition — especially from The Depot Restaurant.

    No easy answers here. Nick, JC and Jay all have valid points — and these are reasonable guys. I’m not opposed to the drop in center but you’d need to up the police patrols in the area. As the fellow I was having this discussion with said, some parents won’t let their kids use the north side walking bridge because of the large homeless population that already hangs out there.

    His solution is to try to get the homeless into homes — an idea I applaud — but you’re always going to have that certain percentage of the population that won’t conform, no matter what. He also said that if he knew then what he knows now, he would have opposed the north side walking bridge and instead, would have put that money toward housing for the indigent. Interesting.

    Again, I have no answers but some good may come out of this controversy: the Pov will certainly do a better job of engaging the community in the future, and it brings the issue to the forefront for deliberation and discussion, and perhaps, both short and long term remedies. Of course, Missoula has to have the will to deal with the issue and to help our fellow man.

  15. Thanks for the links, JC. I’ll check ’em out.

    But while we’re having this discussion, there’s still the problem of the homeless sleeping on downtown sidewalks, panhandling and basically making the downtown business district an uncomfortable place to visit.

    Very well put, Pete. Yeah, maybe we need to do better getting at the root causes of the problem…but in the meantime, maybe we should get behind the Pov, and gently direct the character of a drop-in center.

    I’m getting the feeling there’s a funding issue here — the idea that there’s only a limited amount of funds going around, and the opinion that it should be spent elsewhere…and that makes sense, too.


  16. petetalbot

    The fellow that I had the homeless discussion with (comment above) sent me this link from an old New Yorker piece:
    It offers some possible direction.

  17. JC

    Good synopsis, Pete. I guess when I mentioned the can of worms, part of it is the still brewing issue of how the Pov is going to update/move its facility in the near future. There’s no doubt that a better facility in the downtown area would be most welcome for all involved. The current Pov is just maxed out in its ability to provide services.

    The Pov has done some great work with transitional housing, like the Joseph Residence and Valor House. If the community could get behind this, those kind of programs could be expanded to more than women and veterans.

    I think that the need for addiction and mental health treatment services and an inpatient treatment center are essential in Missoula. I wish we could have a community discussion about addiction treatment like we have had with the mental health issue. The Mental Health Crisis Prevention Coalition (MHCPC) has done great things in Missoula and western Montana to bring people to discuss the problem, provide some short and mid term strategies, and work towards long range solutions.

    Which brings me around to the issue of why is Missoula unwilling/unable to have a similar discussion of the problems of addiction/treatment and homelessness, and increasing poverty? I think the first question that needs to be raised is about why Missoula has not gotten one of the 7 newly funded inpatient addiction treatment centers that the legislature has funded. My insider birdies tell me it is all about turf–who would control them; about need–that some people in this community don’t believe we need them; and fear–where will it go?

    Go to the Providence Center or W. Montana Mental Health and ask about options for treatment. You are told that if you can’t afford private treatment, or have insurance that will cover it, that the public beds across the state are full, and you go on a waiting list. You go from detox back out onto the street. Spin dry, so they say. I could rail about this for hours, as I spend hours volunteering every week to work with dozens of people who are struggling on the precipice of getting into recovery (a different dozen every week–young, old, men and women, single, married, rich and poor, homeless and propertied), and can’t see a clear path forward.

    Then go and ask a homeless person if they understand their disease and their options, and what they are going to do about it. You won’t find many with a clear strategy about how to get into recovery, and how to rebuild their lives. All homeless people, the mentally ill and the addicted have the ability to get into recovery and change their lives. I truly believe that, having walked the road myself.

    I would hope that the Pov Day-center could help with some of these questions, but I really think that the approach they have taken was misguided, and may end up wasting a lot of good money that could have been put to great use.

  18. goof houlihan

    The addiction centers are definitely clean living progress making homes for the motivated and self interested addict. Screw up, and you’ll be out of there.

    They may be protected and allowed in residential areas, because the law requires 24 hour care at such facilities in order to have that protection.

    But they’re for people serious about treatment and staying clean and sober, tightly supervised and holding jobs.

    That doesn’t sound like the “day-center” clientele. It seems to me you understand that, JC, but I just wanted to get your take on it.

    Even such a facility sees resistance from the neighborhoods, but, they’re all about people wanting to make progress and be good neighbors. Bozeman’s facility has its conditional use permit and is set to open soon. I’m glad we’ve got one although the “we can go anywhere” mentality is a bit much…compared to the “we can work with the neighbors” mentality that we’d hope, but not expect, from progressive organizations.

    I understand the need to help people who want help and want to rejoin society. I’m not sure giving a buck, or a day center, to someone who doesn’t want help, is the same thing.

  19. JC

    Goof, you just never know who will make it into recovery before the fact. You can look at the worst case scenario, and a few years later have a person living a changed life, and being a productive community member. You can look at someone who you might think would be promising, and after a few stints through rehab, they go off the deep end.

    The important thing is to not be judgmental in trying to predict outcomes. Everybody deserves a fair chance to get clean and healthy. It is incumbent upon those of who are concerned to work to assure that our communities are able to offer an opportunity to those in need. That is sorely lacking in Missoula right now.

    Not having ample opportunities for people to get healthy leaves us with few choices in our communities: keep ramping up services to treat the symptoms; avert our eyes; or build more jails and institutions. The social costs (human and financial) of ignoring the problem far outweighs the costs of providing adequate treatment and transitional living options.

  20. Judy

    Why are the social services agencies so opposed to additional services for the homeless, with and without co-occurring disorders? No one wants then in their back yard – but they have to be some place and the Pov is a class act – The Pov has apologized for not having the community more involved, but in reality would there have been such opposition if they knew before hand? I think there would be YES – again – no one wants the homeless, or the drunks in their neighborhoods – the Northside was quick to say – hey move to Reserve Street – anywhere but here.

    Why is Patty Kent and the rest of them (as shown in the Missoulian) so set on destroying work that needs to be done with a population not many want to deal with.

    Why such the up-roar and discontent?????

  21. I’ve seen this kind of circular firing squad in every social service venue I’ve ever been involved. I think part of the problem is that so many people that work in these areas get so invested in their models, they become unable to think that anyone else’s ideas can work too.

    Social service agencies are often so strapped for money that ceding any “turf” over a particular problem is automatically perceived as a funding threat. I think this brand of protectionism has probably killed a lot of wonderful and life saving ideas.

  22. Judy – For me, I think if “Patty Kent and the rest of them” are questioning the proposal, people should take notice. Ms Kent (and the rest of the housing coalition people) aren’t exactly curmudgeons – and if they are raising concerns it is hell-damned likely that they are legitimate.

    The initial proposal as prepared cited Ms. Kent’s organization ( the Western Montana Mental Health Center) as being partners when none of them had heard of the plan. If I were the director of the MMHC, that might concern me.

    Further, there are probably some concerns with any and all of the organizations because the Pov’s proposal would be seeking (perhaps competing?) with the funds for the same services which other organizations offer. As you know, funding sources are drying up for social services.

    Look, I’ve got no gripe against the Pov, nor the servicing of the many people who need these types of social services, but certainly there has got to be communication between organizations, and a concerted effort – especially in these times with funding levels so hard to grab at – to address the issues comprehensively.

    Count me as one who thinks the whole situation is unfortunate – all precipitated by the Pov assuming consensus when it had none – and that includes not only the neighborhood, but the other organizations that hadn’t been consulted (despite an application which indicated otherwise).

  23. judy

    Patty kent opposes everything if it doesn’t go thru her agency. And since when does anyone need permission to apply for a grant and make it work?

  24. Sounds personal to me, judy….

    That being said, as the Missoulian pointed out, citing supporting in your application that you don’t have isn’t really the right thing to do. Obviously there was some need, in the application, to show support (permission?, as you cite) from other agencies – that obviously did not occur.

    Our community is able to serve the many that we do because of the cooperation and coordination with the many agencies that it takes to do the job. That cooperation and coordination was clearly lacking in this issue.

    Look – I have no doubt they’ll get it right – and it might even be done more efficiently or with the expansion of an existing facility.

    But a quick question here – isn’t the Pov hoping to expand? Aren’t they too big for its location already? The Pov is an excellent facility, but perhaps instead of expanding into a realm of something they currently don’t have either the resources or the expertise to handle, they’d better serve the lack of resources with regards to substance-abusing homeless people by advocating and joining together with the groups that do that work currently? And leaning on them when they, themselves, want to expand what they do?

    There’s another side to this issue here – nearly 50 people packed that meeting – and it is clear that Patty Kent isn’t the only person raising concern.

  25. I don’t know…I kind of see it more from Judy’s point of view. There seems to be a lot of hubbub over something that everyone admits we need, and the opposition has to do mostly with folks complaining they hadn’t been told or allowed to participate. Not to say that, in this case, broad participation is a bad thing, but I’m getting the feeling that an insular community is reacting to someone going about a project in a different way. Maybe instead of reacting with anger, the community needs to reach out…? But who knows. It feels like a personal, family squabble in somebody else’s house….

  26. TCS

    “as the Missoulian pointed out” presents a whole ‘nother side of this story. The Missoulian’s coverage of this story has been written solely by one reporter, Keila Spzaller, who has consistently presented an anti-Pov view point and interjected opinion into her stories.

    An obvious example: “Making big plans for the community without first talking to the community doesn’t work well.” (Missoulian, “Housing Coalition Questions Poverello Plan”)

    The more insidious form of editorializing Spzaller engages in consists of devoting much of her stories to quotes and arguments from people who are upset with the Pov’s plans, and barely mentioning those who support the Pov’s vision. Spzaller, in the most recent article “Housing Coalition Questions Poverello Plan” wrote, “Providers raised questions about the need for the Pov’s drop-in center and asked which populations it would serve.” Yet she declined to provide the Pov’s answer to that question, which was provided. She also failed to quote several Pov employees who spoke about the drop-in center. The article also left the impression that most service providers are angry with, or against the Pov’s efforts, without adequately conveying the significant amount of support expressed by many providers.

    As an additional tidbit, rumor has it that Spzaller is a resident of the Northside and lives near the pedestrian bridge. If true, it seems she has a bit of a conflict of interest problem with this story. Even if it is not true, her reporting has clearly been one-sided and unobjective, with opinion passed off as news, which is a breach of the fundemental ethics of journalism. Spzaller and her editors should be ashamed of themselves.

  27. Jim Lang

    I agree that Spzaller’s work belongs on the opinion page and not just on this topic. I’ve written to the Missoulian about this before.

  28. The Pov is Western Montana largest emergency homeless shelter and soup kitchen. We sleep up to 70 folks a night. We’ve got 200-250 people a day utilizing our day services. The unmet need is great. It is our mission to “serve all who ask” and we are turning people away. Currently, our main facility is right in the heart of downtown Missoula (535 Ryman) and that facility is our asset and our albatross. Some of the folks we serve are fairly “visible” or otherwise viewed as plain undesirable by a few in this community. We’re the Pov and we’re always open… but, right now, we’re not always open to everyone.

    As I have told Pete Talbot and Jay Stevens on many occasions, I lurk the 4 and 20 blog daily. I am a fan of this forum. I am personally invested in this community. I am crazy about our neighborhoods. In my private life, I serve on the Board of the Sustainable Business Council, the Community Forum and the Historic Preservation Commission. I love Missoula… and as many of you know, I live and breathe the Poverello Center. 4 and 20 fulfills an important niche for me.

    But I also believe in CIVIL DISCOURSE. I am a young Executive Director and I am not above criticism. I have made mistakes and I am just as certain that I will probably make more.

    Patty Kent is a smart and tireless advocate for the poor and mentally ill. I respect her tremendously. Like me, Patty is a former lawyer, and I don’t blame her for calling it like she sees it. Patty is a friend to the Pov and she has been an important mentor for me. Further, the folks at Western Montana Mental Health are intimate collaborators with the Poverello Center. WMMH PATH case managers utilize our Ryman Street facility daily. We refer numerous homeless individuals to SHARE House. SHARE House is an extremely crucial partner and an excellent program. The Pov’s proposed Drop in Center does have significant support from many social service agencies, community leaders, and local citizens. It was not developed in a vacuum. It has been implemented too quickly, due in part to a very short timeline for the State grant, and we could not be more earnestly sorry for that. We regret ever appearing disrespectful to process. Our longtime collaborators and partnering agencies have questions, as does the neighborhood, and we will dedicate ourselves to listening and doing our best to providing the answers. The At-Risk Housing Coalition are our allies and they are experts. jhwygirl is correct, their concerns are legitimate.

    If anyone has any additional questions or concerns regarding the proposed Center, please contact me personally and directly. My e-mail address is Please also let me know if you would like to participate in one of our upcoming focus groups. Anyone and everyone is invited to assist in the development of the programs offered at the Center. I was not around when the Pov opened the Valor House (a transitional housing program for homeless veterans that we operate with the Missoula Housing Authority and the VA), but it is my understanding that it received an even more visceral public reaction. Further, when we opened the Joseph Residence, out off Reserve Street, (a transitional housing program for homeless families that we run with MHA), I heard that some concerned citizen groups picketed the facility. Both facilities are now integral and successful programs in the region. The Pov represents an enormous number of competing interests, collaborators, partners and volunteers, some opposition to the proposed Drop in Center was obviously expected. However, the Poverello Center belongs to all of us in Missoula, not to our Board or the staff or myself, and with that, we humbly look to this community for its guidance and support.

    Thank you to the hundreds of people who have written and called over the last week. These are difficult issues and we at the Poverello Center have sometimes difficult days. We sincerely appreciate this community’s on-going kindness and support.

  29. DriveFastTakeChances

    Missoula social service agencies work within a continuum of care, CoC model. This model recognizes that their is always more people in need, than their is money available. It also recognizes that having a plan on how to move people from homeless to self reliance is a good thing. The plan uses best practices and several agencies coordinating services, to work together to move people toward having needs met. The service providers are divided into the following groups, agencies providing:
    outreach, intake, and assessment services.
    emergency shelter.
    transitional housing with supportive services.
    and, finally, permanent housing placements and permanent housing with supportive services.

    The easy and short version—–A homeless person may enter at the bottom. They would interact with, say, the pov or the salvation army–both outreach intake and assessment. They might be referred to other services, like valor house and section-8 housing. Both of these services are more stable housing than the emergency shelter, but have wait-lists and additional guidelines to access the programs. (sec-8 housing 500 person wait-list, takes 3-4 years to have a housing slot. Then finally, a person may move into the open real estate market.

    The big problem with the pov’s new plan is it is heavy on the intake, assessment, and referral end of the social service spectrum. If the treatment beds, the mental health service slots, the transitional housing programs, the housing, the livable wage jobs, and the affordable housing are not available, in proportion to the numbers of people being referred, the system becomes bottom heavy. There are allot of new assessments and referrals, but no access available at the next level. The result is service providers at the next level, the mental health providers, the addiction services, the transitional housing programs, etc, become overloaded. Wait-lists become longer, and everything beyond the pov turns into grid lock.

    it is kind of like building a new rental car reservation center at the airport, with a bunch of new staff to take reservations, but not adding any additional cars to the fleet. It may sound like a good plan to address the rental car crunch at peak times of year, but without the cars you are going to have more pissed off people because you told them there was a reservation, but when they walk across the lot from the reservation center there are no cars available.

    so, when the pov operates in a vacuum, and fails to coordinate with other service providers. Tells it’s funder it has support, but does not. People who know how the network of already overburdened non profits, the ones the next step up the referral line, become concerned that proposal will actually do more harm than good. The homeless will be pissed because they thought there was help, but find out, after allot of hopes-dashed, that there is no room at the inn. The next-in line service providers become pissed because their wait-lists explode (without any additional funding or staff). etc.

    It is not about fighting for the grant money. Its not about if the Pov is a good or bad non-profit. It’s not about NIMBY neighbors. It is about a poorly conceived program that will not address the underlying needs of the poor, or the network of social service providers in the community, and will not ultimately address the needs of the community as a whole. I doubt if it will do much for the merchants who started this whole bru-haha when they marched on city council last fall.

    btw-if you go back and read the emails on the city council web page from the 20th. you will see the neighborhood complaints were not aimed at the poverello. They were aimed at the city council and the panhandling working group for trying to shift the problems of the merchants-downtown, to the neighborhoods. The memo referring the panhandling issue to city council, by council person Jaffee, from 9/07 indicates the pov is working on a plan to address some of the issues with panhandling downtown. That was 10 moths ago. in all that time, no one from the city or the pov could talk to the neighborhoods or other service providers? And–why a panhandling working group, when the city already has an at risk housing coalition to advise city and county govt on issues concerning the homeless?

    The Mayor was happy to have the focus shift from city govt. to –an issue between the neighbors and the pov, or the pov and other social service agencies.

    The pov has the best intentions, but lack an understanding of the complexities of the issues involved. They moved forward with a nod from city council, and when people began to see a bad plan, city officials quickly left the pov hanging out to dry. Now we have everyone pointing fingers and everyone else. Is this a good way to run a city? Is this the way to build a strong community?

    Too bad the homeless ain’t chickens. I have faith, if they were, the folks down at city hall could have done a much better job.

  30. DriveFastTakeChances

    This is a rant I posted back in June, a day or two after the Missoulian articles announcing the revamped “real change” program, and the day-center plan.

    ” the country divided maybe not by race, but by political and religious extremism;”—
    I would add to this; “CLASS” and the evaporation of the middle class, and the pooling of wealth into the pockets of our citizens-of power.
    In America; Class Is the Ism!
    It is a wedge that pounds the political and religious agendas home.
    Closer to home, some Northside residents have come together to address neighborhood and community concerns.
    The downtown business district is leaning on city officials to shift their “perceived panhandling problem” to nearby residential neighborhoods.
    After a several month process, the panhandling work group and the poverello center have recently announced their plans. They will increase police presence downtown, and open a drop in center for “people with no place to go during the day” next to the 3:16 rescue mission-at the south end of the NORTHSIDE pedestrian overpass.
    When I learned the city’s plan in the Missoulian last week, my first thought was not–I don’t want this in my backyard, but instead, is this the appropriate community response to the issue. My second thought was—If people don’t have a place to go in the day, they don’t have a place to go at night either.
    In Thursdays article, I believe Ms. Hill indicated the Poverello received approximately $250,000 in funding for the first year of day-center operation.
    When I go downtown I see the same 8 or 12 folks panhandling in the (oxford, charlie b’s, and the warden market) triangle. This is the same triangle that has shifted in the last few years from bike shop, trail head, porn in the back of the news stand, and strip joint below the ox. , to what you see there today – and starbucks too!
    In Montana most folks know if you build a house in the woods, you are going to see some bears!
    I wonder how many of the folks from the triangle could be housed and offered treatment services for $250.000?
    I wonder why there are no panhandlers on the north side of the river, like the hip strip? Perhaps its because there are not many businesses serving alcohol over there.
    There are many federal, state and local government policies’s that have led to an increased presence of disadvantaged people downtown. Federal welfare reform enacted 1997 removed most federal financial assistance for the folks we see in the triangle. Federal laws cut off disability benefits for those with substance abuse issues, and de-funded state general assistance programs. In 1999 the Montana department of corrections began transferring inmates from other areas to Missoula. Parolees and discharged inmates, were released with a bus ticket to Missoula with the poverello center listed as an address on the discharge plan. Many must remain in the community due to conditions of the probation and parole. In 2000 downtown business associations, The new wal-mart, and the Salvation Army formed an odd alliance -and lobbied city council to enact the real change program in response to rainbow family impact. The working group, headed by councilman Engen, used a neighborhood grant to secure funds to start the program.
    In recent years, Peter Hance, the now defunct-ex director of the Missoula housing authority, was spending $25,000 a month in community housing money to pay interest on a real estate deal gone wild. And, just last year in the biggest panhandle in downtown’s history, redevelopment agencies and city hall grabbed millions for First interstate bank downtown, by declaring the block urban blight.
    Who figured out that the bank was more blighted than the white pine site, or the area around the 3:16 building?
    Now, last week, the city working group on panhandling has identified a possible cause of vagrant behaviors downtown. They say it is that these poor people just have no place to go during the day. The day center is to open in august
    It would appear that at this point in the process, the city’s working group, and the Poverello center’s management have already decided the “best approach” for the community’s “panhandling problem”—and associated issues.
    It would also appear that unintentional side affects of the convergence of the city’s plan, and the Poverello plan, is that there is a possibility that the whole affair will simply shift the issue from the downtown business district to the Northside/Westside residential neighborhoods.
    I feel it is unfortunate that the city working-group and Poverello center-staff did not chose to invite more of the community to the table at the beginning of the process. But, that is simply one man,s view; I suppose the downtown business owners are pleased they are getting a well-orchestrated response to their complaints. “Where is the “can do” mentality from our government – from its citizens? The “can do” mentality that makes or breaks the corporate world and its inhabitants?”>>>
    It may be happening in Missoula tomorrow night. Come on down and share your thoughts.
    (Dear Neighbors,Mayor John Engen will convene a meeting between Poverello center staff, the Northside/Westside neighborhood and the Heart of Missoula neighborhood to discuss and hear neighborhood concerns about the Poverello’s new proposed drop in center planned to open its doors in August at 506 Toole Ave. The neighborhood meeting will be held Wednesday, June 25, at 7:30 pm at the Stensrud Building located at 314 N. 1st St. W.
    Mayor Engen is convening this meeting to ensure that the discussion begins between the Poverello and the neighborhood, as he is aware of and cares about the neighborhood’s concerns. Please pass this message on to other folks in your neighborhood.
    Thank you for your participation.
    August should prove to be an interesting month for the Northside this year. With the Hells Angles thundering through the underpass, and the new day center operating at the south end of the pedestrian overpass, getting to and from work could be an adventure. If the north hills have a wildfire, we might just have to tunnel out.
    Cheers! Your-neighbor. et

  31. Nick D

    Speaking of the underpass… I’m in the middle of three nights without sleep. I’m about to egg a dump truck or two.

  32. I had prepared something (in my head) to reply, again, this morning – but it looks as though more than a few comments have taken care of the subject – including Ellie Hill’s.

    With one comment, this thread was beginning to turn into a bashing of Patty Kent, a long-time advocate for a lot of good things in this community. The focus has now come back to how to serve a group of people that aren’t being served adequately.

    My comment was to include a part where I was going to assume that even Ellie wouldn’t agree that Patty Kent was deserving of such negative criticism.

    This issue isn’t about who did what wrong – and even at that, I don’t really think it comes down to, frankly, Ms. Hill having done anything wrong – it’s about serving people who need services.


  33. JC

    Jhwygrl, you’re absolutely right that this isn’t about pointing fingers, though when things don’t go smoothly, that is reaction, and I’m as guilty of it as the next guy.

    Decisions by service providers and the city about how to move forward and address the multitude of problems our community faces–the growth of poverty and its associated homelessness, mental health issues and addiction–and the lack of services will necessarily reverberate through affected neighborhoods.

    It is time for some leadership in this city about all aspects surrounding this issue to bring everybody together and deal with it cogently. I’d suggest that Mayor Engen is the proper person to initiate this effort, and that it include all current service providers (government, nonprofit, business, secular and faith-based) neighborhood reps, etc. Not just based around a single issue like panhandling, or Real Change, or the neighborhood drop-in center, or… About all of the issues we face.

    The goal being to identify, characterize and quantify the magnitude of the problem we face, and offer solutions. Obviously those solutions will necessitate finding more resources to plug the gaps (many of which have been talked about in this thread). But the ultimate goal is to move people from indigency to productive community member. Unrealistic waiting lists, reliance by one sector on unavailable resources in another sector are an unacceptable reality in our community to the problems we face.

    If this community believes in Real Change, then we need to find the means and ways to offer people a path out of the hole they’ve fallen into. And we need to divert the at-risk population of Missoula from sinking into poverty and its associated problems of homelessness, addiction and mental health issues.

    Many social services treat the symptoms of homelessness, which is good and needed. But until this community recognizes and accepts the fact that without adequate treatment and transitional housing services, on a far larger scale than we have now, that the problem just gets pushed around from one part of town to the other, from one agency to the next, as people succumb to their poverty and associated illnesses and crime and end up in jails, institutions or die.

  34. Jim Lang

    Maybe it’s because I’ve actually BEEN homeless and penniless, but I’m completely unmoved by the “Real Change, Not Spare Change” rhetoric.

    First, I don’t believe it actually could produce real change. Every person who visits downtown could give a dollar to RC,NSP on every visit and I doubt anything would change.

    But more importantly, I object fundamentally to the idea that panhandling is wrong and should be discouraged. It’s not wrong to ask for help, and it’s not wrong to directly give to someone in need. In the linked article, it is stated that: “you’re really not helping people out when you give them money” – that is ridiculous.

  35. Leslie Jensen

    Hello all, my neighbor told me of this blog and I want to first list my disclaimers. 1)I am not a “blogger” its not a forum that in general speaks to me. 2)I am a 17-year resident of the neighborhood that the Pov is looking to locate in – 516 West Alder – one block South of the current 3:16 Mission and proposed Pov Day Center – and have very strong views on this topic. 3) I am only currently focused on the proposed location of the Pov’s proposed day center and not the much broader and infinitely more complex issue of homelessness and services for the mentally ill with or without concurrent substance abuse issues. 4) I am not a part of the non-profit or service provider community – just a working class neighborhood resident. 5) I think anonymous or Blog Name posts are chicken shit.
    OK! Now that I have made my disclaimers, I would like to tell you that your posts are interesting and very respectful to one another which, as I understand, is not always the case with this type of forum. I would like you all to understand only a few things about not just my attitude, but that of all of my neighbors who I have been in contact with or heard at meetings since the story about the proposed day center was first introduced by the Missoulian. NIMBY, while not a term that most of us would reject at this point is more importantly, NOT ACCURATE. I will leave it to the more creative among you to come up with an ancronym that is pronouncible as a word but ALREADY IN MY BACK YARD FOR 8+ YEARS AND I AM AT MY BREAKING POINT would be a more accurate description for how we are feeling. The 3:16 mission has been serving this population in the same building proposed by the Pov for that time period (just a note to say the 3:16 has been made a scapegoat in many meetings that I have been to and that is unfair in my view). There is no one in my hood that I have spoken to nor has the Pov been able to describe for us how they would be able to serve this population without more of the same problems that we have lived with (albeit with clenched teeth) since the 3:16 arrived some 8 years ago. I applaud your concern for the people who the 3:16 and the Pov seek to serve. I respectfully request that you seek not to chastise us for WE HAVE ALREADY SERVED. I ask that you instead find a place in your neighborhood – and by that I mean within 3 blocks of your home – for the Pov to try this concept that is entirely new for them. Its time to spread the wealth and the compassion. Thank you, Leslie Jensen 516 West Alder

  36. Leslie, welcome to blogging.

    I hope you saw from my original post that I do understand what you go through — I have a poorly managed halfway house two doors away.

    My concern: these places need to exist. Where do we put them, and how? How do we deal with the neighbors, and how do we make these centers fit in with the neighborhood? As someone who’s lived near a day center for 8 years, how could the situation been improved?

    On a related note, and as a general FYI for everybody, Daniel Nairn has an intriguing post up about why maybe sometimes there is some pushback from neighbors about new institutions moving into the neighborhood. It’s interesting — and I agree somewhat — but, like Leslie, my experience is that having a treatment center or day center or halfway house on your block can have a real and negative impact on your life. It’s not just about being wary of a stranger moving in and the alienation of modern life.

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