National Homeless Person’s Memorial Day

by jhwygirl

First day of winter, it is – and longest day of the year. With winter formally upon us, and the holidays bearing down, its easy to forget that while this time of the year puts us indoors more than usual, there are people out there who eat and sleep and live outside, lacking a roof over their head, yet alone a soft bed to sleep in.

The National Coalition for the Homeless has organized National Homeless Person’s Memorial Day as a way to remind America that there are people that not only live but that die on our streets.

How many homeless die on the streets and roads of Missoula? How many this year? I admittedly don’t know. Because I don’t know doesn’t make those men and women not exist. They rarely get a mention in the news or elsewhere. It’s why homelessness is so difficult – it often lacks a face, a name. Two were mentioned in the paper this year – but without a name, there’s not much but a few sentences. Beyond that, the homeless were of little consequence in our day-to-day news, our day-to-day lives.

The homeless are to American what the untouchables are to India. Make no mistake – there’s little difference.

America the beautiful. America the great.

You can help out Missoula’s homeless assistance and crisis center, The Poverello Center by donating here.

  1. This time of year, the Missoulian runs a daily “We Care” column of folks in the community who need some extra help. Some people are living in their cars or on the streets, and they’re asking for things like warm sleeping bags, tents and boots. The Pov is the lead agency in this particular column, which outlines some clients’ wish lists for donors who want to give specific items.

  2. Lizard

    homelessness is an umbrella issue with a whole bunch of sub-issues clustered beneath the canopy. we could talk about veterans and war trauma, or substance abuse, or mental health, or job loss, or health care, or discharged convicts, or runaways, or elderly folks on fixed incomes, etc.

    all of the major challenges we face as a country play some role in the broader issue of homelessness, yet too many people in this country (and in our community) would like to think they know what a homeless person looks like, and why they need emergency shelter.

    here are some of the challenges we are looking at: the class divide hasn’t been this wide since the great depression. good paying middle class jobs have been sent over seas. our two current wars are churning out tens of thousands of physically and mentally scarred americans. our public officials are paralyzed by legal bribery. and there’s no end in sight. to any of it.

    so what can we do? first, let’s look at the gaps in this community, and get them filled. we don’t have an emergency shelter for families. we don’t have an emergency shelter with handicap accessibility. we don’t have a substance abuse treatment facility. we lost subsidized detox beds at share house. st. pats is inundated with folks with serious substance abuse and mental health problems (often cutting them loose as soon as possible because they drain resources). downtown businesses feel harassed. city council passes ordinances that won’t do a thing. and our jails and prisons discharge people into homelessness, in direct defiance of montana’s state constitution.

    i know i tend to unload a lot of national pessimism around here. (wulfgar: sorry for being an ass in the open thread)
    clearly i already have a good new year’s resolution, like: say something positive you goddamn reptilian!

    hell, i’ll just give it a shot right now. i think missoula can, and will, unleash its progressive kinetic energy to find creative, innovative ways of approaching some of these systemic problems we are facing.

    there are no viable alternatives. we either find a way to move forward as a community, or stagnate in the national morass of the status quo.

  3. bubbie

    December 21st is the shortest day of the year.. not longest. this is winter solstice.

    • JC

      Actually, all days are the same length.

      Winter solstice has the shortest daylight, and the longest nighttime.

      Semantics… I know. They’re a bitch.

  4. J-Girl, Thanks for honoring National Homeless Person’s Memorial Day. You consistently give a voice to the voiceless in this community. You’re a true advocate. I voted 4 and 20 as the Best Blog in the Missoula’s Choice awards (the awards are online now)! Get out there B-Birds and vote!

    Keila, Thanks A LOT for passing along the We Care column. The Missoulian’s dedication to community journalism through this service single-handedly provides us the gifts to pass along to hundreds of Missoula’s “undesirable” and homeless men, women, and children. These people literally would receive NOTHING on Christmas morning without what you folks do. No organization provides us more assitance at Christmastime and I mean that.

    Lizard, YOUR WISDOM AND INSIGHT IS RIGHT ON. I’d like to meet you about something our organization is working on to serve the poor in this community better. We’re looking for a round table of interested citizens to share ideas. Would you be willing to email me? I’ll hold your identity in confidance.

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all b-birds!

    In honor of J-Girl’s post, I’ll share an email I sent to a few friends last summer.

    July 21, 2009
    Richard Roy Jones.

    The man who drowned in the Clark Fork this past weekend in Missoula was a Native American and an honorably discharged homeless veteran (enrolled in the Veteran Administration/Poverello Center’s Homeless Veteran Program). He served in the USMC from 1980 to 1983.

    After completing a detox program at Share House, Richard Roy Jones languished on the waiting list to get into the Valor House, which currently sits at over forty individuals, and he had finally made it to the eighth in line– after months trying to succeed under the constrainst of our overcrowded shelter– when he succumbed to the elements and to his addictions.

    Richard was really well liked by the staff and clients of the Poverello Center.

    Please correct people if you hear of him referred to as a transient. He was not a transient. He was a Missoulian and a really, really fantastic guy.

    When we resume talks regarding affordable housing, please keep our poorest fellow citizens in mind. We must continue to fight to create more permanent supportive housing for the homeless; it is truly life or death. Housing first models work– and with your support we can implement them in this region. The emergency public housing facilities in our community are not adequate. They are overcrowded and do not serve the most vulnerable: families with children, the handicap, and the co-occurring (mentally ill with substance use). When we fail the poorest in our community, we fail as a community.

    We can’t stop until we serve all the homeless in this community. Someday, we will serve all who ask. We owe it to Richard Roy Jones.

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