Archive for December 1st, 2009

by jhwygirl

Anniversary or special dates are all unique – some are on a particular day of the week (Thanksgiving, for example), while others are a particular day (July 4th, for example).

Two years ago on Wednesday, December 5th, Forrest Clayton Salcido was murdered at the California Street Bridge. His lifeless body was found the next morning, and by Friday two local teens were arraigned for his death.

Little has changed since that night two years ago. The situation may actually be worse. Every night hundreds of homeless fend for themselves on the streets of Montana. They are cold, they are tired and they are hungry. They are also easy targets for random tragic acts of violence. Many of them are veterans – but in today’s economy, they can be homeless single parents with children, just as easily as they can be teens that have been bounced from home to home, until they, too, are finally homeless.

Day in and day out, a wide assortment of agencies here in Missoula work to assist. The Poverello is surpassing the number of beds it has nightly. Red Cross, Salvation Army….3:16 Mission – local churches and probably a number of individuals also add to the number of beds.

Other places aren’t as fortunate. Today I came upon a situation in Hamilton, and for this particular situation (a single father), I found nothing available to him there to address his immediate situation.

The basic human need of shelter should know no denial. This isn’t politics – it’s humanity.

Below is a repost of my thoughts from last year. Please join me tomorrow night (December 2nd) to light a candle for Forrest Clayton Salcido and the other scores of homeless who will be sleeping somewhere other than a warm dry bed. They are not invisible, nor are they forgotten.

One year ago tomorrow December 5th, Forrest Clayton Salcido was brutally stomped to death – murdered – for no excuse other than being somewhere at the wrong time, and encountering the worse of human kind.

Salcido, 56, was a Navy veteran of the Vietnam war. He was known as a kind and gentle soul, who was more comfortable – despite family in the area – braving the elements and shunning the rat race. He had worked for years at the Evans mill after leaving the service, and later MRL when the mill closed.

I had met Forrest, briefly, in mid-October, while home in mid-day for lunch. He was rooting through the dumpsters, collecting aluminum cans – and had huge bags tied to his bike. I waved and said hello, and ran inside and grabbed my recycling cans to give to him. It was a Wednesday. We struck up a conversation. He was pleasant and sociable – and other than the more-than-usual amount of necessities he had tied to his bike, one might never have known he was living on the street. As we parted, I asked him if he collected cans regularly, and he said he did it every Wednesday because (if I remember correctly) Pacific Recycling paid double for aluminum.

So I started collecting the cans at work. I missed the next week, but the following I left them out the back door in the morning, and they were gone when I got home. I mighta got another two batches out there for him – but later there was another that wasn’t picked up.

Forrest was murdered on a Wednesday.

A week later, when I saw this story in the paper, I got sick to my stomach all over. I say all over, because as I had read the coverage of his senseless murder that previous week, I had been sicked to think that someone would meet such a horrible end for nothing other than ‘I’m having a bad day’ reasoning.

But there was his picture. Forrest Clayton Salcido was the guy I had struck up a conversation with just what seemed just a few short weeks ago. I knew then why that bag of cans was still sitting out the door.

Months and months later – maybe it was spring this year? – I found another guy reaching through the dumpsters nearby for aluminum. It was a Wednesday. He’s a military veteran also. Pleasant, sociable – his hobby is race cars. He stops by every Wednesday to bring another veteran who is a neighbor a warm lunch or dinner meal and a visit of conversation. I occasionally take that same neighbor a meal (on the rare occasion I cook something that he can eat – he likes my stew and my chicken and dumplings), but not nearly enough.

I try every week to get my workplace’s cans brought home with me on Tuesdays, and set them out there for my neighbor’s friend to pick up. Remembering Forrest Clayton Salcido reminds me to do it – and for a year now, I don’t think there’s been a Wednesday, whether I get the cans out there or not, that I don’t think of Forrest.

Forrest’s death opened the ugly door to the realities of life that homeless people face amongst our oh-so-civil world. On any given night in Missoula, more than 500 are homeless. A canvas done in 2008 turned up 906 homeless people in Missoula County. Nationally, more than 1 in 4 homeless are military veterans. The VA estimates that 200,000 veterans are homeless on any given night. 400,000 will be homeless during the course of a year. 11% of Montana’s population are military veterans. Is this how we treat the men who sacrifice so much to defend our freedom? Councilman Jon Wilkins spoke eloquently about just this issue on Veteran’s Day last month. If you didn’t see it then, you should read it now.

His murder also shed some more undesirable light on the ugly violence that is here in Missoula – that many choose or refuse to acknowledge. Salcido’s murderers were an 18-year old Hellgate High senior and a 20-year old friend. What environment – what community – unwittingly fostered a situation that created such monsters? That may be tough to hear – but this paragraph and the paragraph above it are all questions we should be asking ourselves.


I believe I will make a trip down to the bridge tomorrow at darkness and light a candle for Forrest.

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