Archive for the ‘homelessness’ Category

by jhwygirl

The City of Missoula’s attempts to criminalize homelessness has reached a ridiculous crescendo. Downtown is a mess and don’t you know, it’s all the homeless’ fault. Not the drunks – served at downtown bars – who smash up downtown businesses. Not the drunks assaulting innocent pedestrians on their way home from the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival – nope..it’s those darn homeless.

Of latest debate is the ability of people to – yeah, get this – sit downtown. Because, you know, no one should be coming to Missoula Montana and have the audacity to sit. In downtown! Of all places!

Dan Cederberg, a member of Mayor Engen’s downtown advisory committee, is quoted in this Missoulian article covering today’s committee meetings as saying that ‘the council has heard plenty of testimony that many people who sit downtown also end up harassing and intimidating people, so the act is a “gateway” to poor behavior. He said the result is a public safety issue the city must address.’

Sitting is a “gateway” to poor behavior?

Liberals and Progressives? Please phone home because your city is lost.

I’ll tell you what is “gateway” behavior to a poor downtown lacking growth: Public officials and downtown businesses and commerce organizations standing by (because, you know, sitting is bad) with nary a whisper while one of the largest and most historic pieces of commerce real estate not only in Missoula but in western Montana is eyed as a viable site for the county public library.

Let that sink in: the county friggin’ library. A non-tax paying entity taking up one of the largest contiguous parcels of downtown Missoula. A block and a half off of riverfront, and on the main bridged street through downtown?

And before the Friends of the Library come out and whine about me hating all books, I’ll pray that ya’all believe me when I say I’m a big fan of libraries and book reading. Frankly, more people should do it. Newspapers too. Everyone should read and do it often. As often as possible.

And I’m even OK if you sit while doing it!

Yeah – downtown Missoula is turning into a tax-free haven – let’s not forget the University either.

Please grow the hell up and quit blaming everyone but yourselves people.

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By JC

not-in-my-town

In a stunning vote of 7-3, Missoula’s City Council amended Missoula Municipal Code Title 9, entitled “Public Peace, Morals and Welfare,” Chapter 9.34 entitled “Pedestrian Interference”. The amendment included the following definition of “sit”:

H. “Sit” means to be in a position in which your bottom is resting on a chair, the ground, etc. with your back upright.

The Council then applied the new definition of “sitting” to the following activities:

A. It is unlawful for any person to sit, lie or sleep on a sidewalk within twenty (20)  feet of an entrance to a building, or to sit, lie or sleep upon any street or alley, within the city limits.

B. It is unlawful for any person to sit, lie or sleep on a public sidewalk, or upon a blanket, chair, stool, or any other object placed upon a public sidewalk during the hours between 6:00 am and 11:00 pm in the Downtown Business Improvement District of Missoula;

While the Council did make exceptions for certain things like medical emergencies and when they “authorize” protesters to exercise first amendment rights (how nice of them!), and permitting restaurants that want to expand their occupancy numbers by allowing sidewalk seating, it appears that the baby stroller lobby didn’t have enough clout to grant them an exemption to the new ordinance.

But fear not, babes sitting with their “bottoms” resting on a chair with wheels (or will strollers be grandfathered in under a disability provision to use a “wheelchair”?), you are in good company with Missoula’s finest of homeless citizens. You have been added to the list of obstructionists getting in the way of “upstanding” citizens utilizing their lawful right to walk the sidewalks of Missoula unimpeded by strollers.

Cyclists, be aware that your sitting on the seat of your bicycle while on a sidewalk may be interpreted as a violation of this ordinance, too. Let’s see how the local police determine to proceed with that apparent violation.

It will be interesting to see if Missoula’s men in blue understand all citizens’ rights to Equal Protection under the Constitution’s 14th Amendment by fairly implementing the law. If we can get enough baby strollers ticketed, maybe the City can escape the inevitable charges of selective enforcement, and violating homeless peoples’ civil rights to occupy public space. Or for violating homeless peoples’ rights under the 8th Amendment to sleeping on the streets and sidewalks of Missoula.

Welcome to the expansion of the nanny state in Missoula. Outraged? Here’s a good place to start…

by jhwygirl

It’s a pretty hefty charge to make, but as Missoula County resident, #OccupyMissoula participant and attorney Taryn Hart points out, it’s unsafe for not only the occupiers, but for the intoxicated people Missoula City Police are allegedly dropping off at the occupation, located on the Missoula County Courthouse lawn.

A tactic, she explains at her blog Plutocracy Files, used by police against Occupy movements across the nation.

Occupy Missoula is an alcohol and drug-free encampment. The agreed to this on day #1. To hear that city police are delivering intoxicated and belligerent people off at the encampment is troubling.

This is something that should be troubling to the community, too. These types of actions can leave the City exposed to any number of lawsuits should something occur which results in injury or death.

Hear it in Ms. Hart’s words:

I had heard from several of the 24/7 occupiers at Occupy Missoula that the police have dropped off drunken, belligerent people at the occupation. I happened to be there when just that happened. A woman who was extremely drunk and was belligerent was dropped off by Officer Kasey Williams of the Missoula Police Department, Badge #348. She headed directly into the occupation and was belligerent and threatening. This very small occupation was forced to handle this on their own (which, by the way, they did very well).

As soon as I left I called Sgt. Jerry Odlin to speak to him about it. I informed him of the situation and informed him that the occupation has rules prohibiting intoxication. He denied that anything had been done to create disruption at the Occupy Missoula occupation.

These are serious claims to make. Taryn Hart has put herself out there in her own words with specific allegations to this incident. She is calling on not only the community but the media to contact both the Missoulian and Missoula Mayor Engen to let them know that this type of behavior is unacceptable and dangerous and needs to stop.

~~~~
I’m also going to add this – I caught KECI NBC Montana’s report on Occupy Missoula either Wednesday or Thursday evening, with Steve Fetveit speaking of “feces in the bushes,” while Heidi Meili countered – with a distressed look on her face and concern in her voice – about the “health risks” exposed to the community.

Now – I don’t get downtown every day, and I don’t know if anyone’s ever noticed but we’ve got homeless people here in Missoula. In fact, there are homeless people everywhere across the nation. There has been – again, in fact – homeless people around on this earth since the beginning of time. Some of them have mental issues, and others have no other choice – it’s a mix of humanity, much as it is for those who sleep in beds under roofed structures.

Homeless people – and this is a factual reality – don’t have easy access to bathrooms. I am not saying that what occurs because of this reality is acceptable by any means, but I am saying this is a factor that, it appears, many people have chosen to push out of their mind as they turn their sight (and voice) to the plight of homeless people.

Having been to the Missoula County courthouse a few times, I can tell you that there was feces – and lots of other stuff – hanging out there in the bushes for a long long time. This spring – or was it last fall? – they were doing some renovations down there. Couldn’t enter in through the front door. Well, I had walked up to that front door not paying attention as I sipped my soy chai latte, no foam, from Broadway Bagels…which left me having to tramp to the west side door out by the parking lot on the side of the building.

I got to walk by all those bushes and squeeze through the line of them over there bordering the parking lot. It looked like people were living in there. There was clothing and bundles and garbage. All kinds of crap – and I do mean, literally, crap. I remember noting at the time how odd it was that the County Courthouse, such a visible public place, could house such an amount of humanity and its garbage behind the bushes and no one seemed to notice.

Maybe Steve Fetveit should do the gentlemanly thing and accompany Heidi Meili in her perfectly coiffed hair and 3 1/2″ heels down to the Missoula County Courthouse – in broad daylight so as to ensure their safety – and ask a few people down there how many bags of garbage and crap they carted out of the grounds of the courthouse in the first few days of #occupyMissoula?

Maybe Steve Febveit Heidi Meili should then take a short walk up to the Poverello Center during the lunch hour to see the unwashed homeless as they gather for one of the three warm meals a day they may be lucky to get – along with a chance to perhaps wash up and go to the restroom. Ask ’em where they go to the bathroom during the night.

The news may shock those news reporters.

There are insufficient services here for the homeless. Homelessness is a fact of humanity. Grow up and deal with it. Occupy Missoula is and has been since the first day. Hell – I stood on the courthouse lawn the first day and a homeless lady came up and, asking me if I was in charge, continued to berate me for not having anything more to eat than salad.

Does Occupy Missoula have a homeless problem? You bet ya. Its the same homeless problems that Missoula has had since this earth produced man on earth.

Appalled by feces as the Courthouse people? It didn’t magically show up with Occupy Missoula.

By CFS

After attending the public meeting last night focusing on the future of Missoula’s Poverello Center I came away very impressed with the format of the meeting and the positive feeling that most people came away with.  The amount of information provided to attendees that had previously not entered into the debate was substantial.  Especially interesting was the limitation placed on the pov in choosing a new site due to local zoning codes, basically most of the possibilities are within the downtown core or along commercial corridors such as Broadway, Higgins, Russell, etc.  For more information on the process, stay tuned to the City’s neighborhoods website for updates including a map of possible sites from last night’s meeting and details on future public meetings and chances for public comment.

Of course this morning I read the Missoulian article on the event and that positive feeling went away when the first quote they chose to run came from a person in opposition throwing out inaccurate  facts about the pov.

Here is the offending quote:

Despite the Poverello’s efforts to track sexual offenders, “there are 10 offenders there right now” and 85 more within a five-square-block of Lowell School, said one parent, answering a question that each group answered on sheets later shared with the audience. “And that’s just too many for this neighbor.”

Did the Missoulian bother do any fact checking at all?

A quick search of the Montana Sexual Offender Registry shows that the figure of 85 was close… for the whole zip code of 59802, which includes the pov. Rather there were a total of 81 sexual offenders residing within the 59802 zip code.  There were even more within the 59801 zip code, with a total of 83 and an astonishing 93 within the 59808 zip code.  Does that mean that a sexual predation is positively correlated with income level?

59802… looks to cover about five square blocks

When searching by the address of Lowell School I came up with the grand total of 16 sexual offenders within a very generous five-block radius and a total of 6 that have listed the pov as their residents not the quoted 10.  Is it possible that my numbers are wrong? Yes, as the registry’s disclaimer states, “Users are cautioned that the information provided on this website is information of record that is reported to the unit and may not reflect the most recent residence, status or other information regarding an offender. The unit makes no express or implied guarantee concerning the accuracy of this data,” and that for offenders with more than one address the first address is the one that comes up in searches.  Does that mean the first address an offender may have ever listed upon release?  I’m not sure.  So are my number any more accurate than the person quoted? Maybe not but they certainly are different.

Its also disturbing to see a great many of the registered offenders flagged with this note… Non-Compliant/Address Verification Overdue. It really is in red.

Is it possible that the person quoted simply misspoke? Yes, and my guess is that when they stated the statistics for sexual offenders they also included violent offenders in their numbers.  I don’t mean this post as an attack on the people who are opposed to the poverello center or the person that was quoted in the Missoulian.  My beef is with a newspaper that doesn’t seem interested in doing its job properly.  It took me all of 10 minutes to put the above information together and I’m sure I could have gotten more accurate information if I had contacted local law enforcement… like maybe a local reporter might have done.  You think that a professional that is supposed to be interested in journalistic integrity and providing unbiased fact would have taken the time to conduct the same level of verification if they are going to quote statistics in their story.

By CFS

In the debate over finding a new home for Missoula’s Poverello Center, much of the community’s attention has been captured by concerns of simply moving the homeless “problem” into a different area of town and how any spill-over may affect people’s children and home value rather than how a new and modern facility can improve the quality of life for not only homeless people and families but for the community as a whole.

The NIMBYs have taken over the asylum and seem reluctant to give back the keys.  Many people who comment on this topic think that the best solution would be to simply move the Pov to the edge of town, preferably adjacent to the interstate, to allow the homeless to keep moving on once they have visited the Pov and to more the “problem” outside of downtown away from view and out of people’s minds.

Dallas has found a different solution – one that involves providing a new standard of best-practices – by providing  services that aim to get people off the streets and back into housing and steady employment. The Bridge Homeless Assistance Center, operated by a local Dallas non-profit, has received international recognition for its innovative approach to packaging transitional services together in a single facility.  The Bridge is located on the edge of downtown Dallas where it easily accessible to not only the homeless, but well situated to create lasting community partnerships that can have a profound affect on the success of transitional services.  Successful enough that in a three-year period The Bridge has transitioned 982 people in permanent housing and placed 1,588 into jobs.

Also since the opening of The Bridge in 2008, “chronic homeless has been reduced by 57%… the local crime rate has reduced by more than 20%,” while  The Bridge has  saved the City of Dallas $3 million dollars in emergency services costs.  That, to me, seem like a well placed investment of community resources.  Missoula isn’t Dallas when it comes to the amount of resources we have to spend, but one of the strengths of our community is that we like to punch above our weight class.

As long as the conversation is focused simply on the future location of the Pov we aren’t getting to the heart of what this debate should be about… what is best for Missoula and what will bring the most benefits to our community.  The Dallas model looks to be a better option than trying to hide the problem away in some undesirable corner of Missoula.

by jhwygirl

Boy – couldn’t have better weather for a fly-fishing competition and evening fundraiser, could you?

Missoula’s very hard-working homeless shelter, The Poverello’s Center will be hosting its 5th annual Double Haul Fly Fishing Fundraiser Saturday, with Kettlehouse Brewing providing adult beverages and Two Sisters of Montana helping out with the food.

Who’s doing the stand-up? Of course, Mayor John Engen…

There’s also Bob Wire – who not only does some mean stand-up, he is multi-talented with both voice and gee-tar.

So don’t miss it people. Even if you don’t do the fly-fishing part, the evening fundraiser starts at 5 p.m. downtown in the Governor’s Ballroom of the Florence Building.

P.S. – Hey Kettlehouse! Fix that webpage!

by jhwygirl

Hi folks. Miss ya. Hope this post finds you happy and tanned and well-rested.

Pepsi has been sponsoring a grant program called the Pepsi Refresh Project. It started in February, and runs on a monthly cycle. There are multiple levels of grants ($5K, $25K, $50K and $250K), and they’ve got $1.3 million up for grabs this cycle. Good for Pepsi, good for communities and well-deserving non-profits everywhere.

And yeah – I’m a Pepsi gal, when I do soda. Pepsi is something I’ve been known to crave. Yum. Caffeine-free, of course.

Missoula’s Poverello Center has been nominated for a $50,000 grant. You can vote here.

In fact – save that link. Put it on your desktop. Mail it to friends.

You can vote twice a day. TWICE A DAY.

And for you haters out there – there’s a list there at that You-can-vote-here link that tells you what they intend to do with the cash – and it includes funding for MT ID cards, bus tickets and birth certificates…..all things that help homeless find jobs.

So vote. Vote early, vote often.

Thank you.

Peace.

By JC

Continuing on with our annual discussion about the conflict downtown–spurred on by City Councilor Bob Jaffe’s remarks on his listserve– between shoppers, tourists, visitors and businesses vs. the homeless, transient, “serial inebriates” and the mentally ill, today’s Missoulian digs a little deeper into the details (thanks liz for your attention to this issue, and pointing out the article!):

“When Michael Van Riper was ordered to spend three nights behind bars after screaming obscenities and threatening the owner of Worden’s Market, Tim France figured he’d get a couple days of relief from the persistent menace outside his shop.

“He’s very loud, thoroughly obnoxious and obscene beyond what’s tolerable – and what’s legal, for that matter,” France said.

But hours after Municipal Judge Marie Andersen heard Van Riper plead guilty and sentenced him, the Detention Center cut him loose. The reasons aren’t clear, and the incident has the judge wondering how often the jail ships out inmates of its own accord.

“I am not aware of any legal authority by which the jail may unilaterally release Defendants prior to the completion of a valid sentence,” wrote Andersen in an e-mail about the incident.”

So it seems that Sheriff McMeekin has taken to interpreting Judges’ detention orders according to his own criteria, which seems a little… arbitrary:

“Missoula County Sheriff Mike McMeekin said the department doesn’t keep statistics on the times and reasons it chooses to let people out before they have served their sentences. The reasons vary, but McMeekin said detention officers can, in some cases, override a sentence without consulting the judge.”

While I’m all about protecting the civil rights of individuals who choose to inhabit or visit downtown Missoula, I also understand the need to have a system of accountability that works as intended for those who break laws, of which the justice system plays a major role. Sheriff McMeekin’s taking on the role of Judge just isn’t going to cut it here.

So it’s obvious that the county jail isn’t doing, and doesn’t have the resources to deal with, Missoula’s problems with the disenfranchised. They don’t want to hold people whose medical expenses they may incur. They don’t want a repeat of the Heather Wasson story, where if she had been diverted to a medical facility for treatment, she wouldn’t have died in lockup.

Missoula needs to sit down and figure out a new way to deal with the problem before it: increasing numbers of homeless, transient and mentally ill people in the face of diminishing resources available to care for and treat their needs. Last year’s panhandling ordinance working group had these words about their work:

“The working group aims to protect and improve quality of life in downtown Missoula for all people who use the area, including business owners, people who live and work downtown, shoppers and patrons of professional offices, and people who are without means and depend on social services,” said city communications director Ginny Merriam.”

Judging by the story in today’s Missoula, those efforts have failed miserably, and they need to get back to the drawing board–maybe with a different mission in mind.

In the words of Municipal Judge Marie Andersen: “we need to find a different solution.”

Get to work, Missoula.

By JC

Seems that Missoula Councilor Bob Jaffe let loose his true feelings in a post to his listserve yesterday. I guess it’s time for our annual bash the homeless prattle from town hall, now that Missoula is at it’s seasonal height for transient migration, coupled with a burgeoning local homeless population including far too many Missoula families.

So I thought I’d poke my nose in Jaffe’s business and bring to light what he really thinks about Missoula’s less fortunate. Here’s the relevant part of his post for your reading [dis]pleasure. Feel free to leave your comments about homelessness in Missoula, and the way our public servants think and talk about it:

“Next we had a presentation in Public Safety regarding our new full time downtown officer. Her name is Nicole Pifari and she has decided to leave the police force to go to law school. The plan is that she will continue to work for the force during the summers while she is in school. She has been at it for about six weeks now and the response from downtown business owners and patrons has been extremely positive. Assigning an officer to this beat full time creates continuity. She sees the same folks over and over and gets to know what’s going on.

The presentation was from Assistant Chief Brady and BID director Rod Austin. I wanted to hear what Officer Pifari had to say so I asked her up to come up and answer some questions. She had a few comments that I thought were important. She clarified that the work was primarily about dealing with the homeless population. She was clear that her job is not about solving homelessness or vagrancy. It is about keeping it out of downtown. She lets the folks know they need to find a more socially acceptable place to throw up and piss themselves. She knows that Missoula is a very friendly and empathetic place. Her job is to make it a little less friendly and comfortable for the least among us.

I had the impression she was fully aware of the unfortunate and tragic nature of this assignment. We have a very friendly and accepting community and a population of destitute people who survive by manipulating and taking advantage of this kindness. There is a critical mass or threshold that gets crossed and then the community starts to feel victimized. Our response is to dial down the love these folks feel when they come to Missoula. This is Nicole’s job.

On the up side, she provides the rest of us with a sense of security, safety and order. In general, the odds that a shopper will suffer any actual harm from a homeless person is incredibly small. But the perception of danger is real. An officer in uniform creates a perception of safety. Folks love it. Her presence is a huge benefit to the health and future of our downtown. I got the feeling that she had the perfect disposition to serve the community in this role. Hopefully the plans to retain her during the summers will pan out.

Jon Wilkins also pointed out that we can’t just arrest these folks because our judge just lets them go free. He wants to see them go to jail and be given an orange jump suit and be put to work picking up trash along the highway. I’m actually intrigued by the idea of instituting a chain gang in Missoula. Nothing wrong with a little community service and clearly these folks aren’t concerned with being humiliated in public. We would need to find a big tobacco chewing officer with a shotgun to oversee the crew to get the full effect. I think the word would get out pretty quick that maybe Missoula isn’t the best place to be sprawled out on the sidewalk. There is a major issue with funding and liability. One of the reasons we don’t put transients in jail is they have all sorts of medical problems that become our responsibility once they are incarcerated. I can’t imagine what would happen if we actually made them perform physical labor. If we could come up with a funding mechanism I would be curious if we could try this. I’m wondering if anyone north of Texas has attempted it and whether folks would be horrified or happy the trash was being picked up.”

P.S., hat tip to Duganz and lizard for bringing this topic up today on another blog post

by jhwygirl

Looks like HD94 candidate goddess Ellie Hill has her campaign website up and running, and it sure looks nice.

She must know a fabulous photographer. The photographs are beautiful (as was her Christmas card photo).

Go check it out. While you’re there, drop her a Jackson….because you know Ellie Hill is a good investment.

She has an expansive working knowledge of veterans issues. So much so, that her work with the Pov was not only discussed in committee by Sen. Jon Tester (who was testifying in a Senate committee on proposed legislation), but members of that committee asked plenty of questions about how an org like the Pov functions. When a respected Senator like Jon Tester testifies on veterans issues and mentions the Missoula Poverello Center as a shining example of an underfunded and overcapacity service provider for veterans, other senators listen.

Montana has more veterans per capita than any other state. Her knowledge in that regards would substantially benefit veterans in terms of addressing legislation.

She also has quite an amount of expertise on social service issues. This is in direct relation to her understanding of veterans issues. She knows what works and what doesnt. What wastes money, and what is effective. With the limited funds available in those regards, it’s important that taxpayers get value for whatever they spend there. Again – Ellie Hill is an asset.

I don’t know all Ellie’s issues – I don’t need to.

What I do know is that veteran’s issues are important to me and they’re important to Montana. Homelessness goes hand in hand there with veteran’s issues, since statistics show nearly 30% can be veterans. Food, shelter, mental and physical health care is all important stuff in those regards. When the legislature is addressing these issues, I know that Ellie Hill is able to address those issues like the professional she is.

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.

by jhwygirl

Please consider this an open thread.

I’m looking for craft shows around the area – and by area I mean Kalispell, Helena, Bozeman, Butte, Deerlodge, Billings, Great Falls. Know any? Let me know below. (Thanks.)

Goddess knows there are plenty of people upset about the County’s plan proposal to consolidate precincts and close polling stations. If you are concerned about the closing of polling stations, and want the county to take time to get community input on putting together a plan that is workable, why not sign Forward Montana’s petition?

Via Missoula’s Heavy Metal Hippy, we learn that Big Foot has been sighted. In Minnesota.

Cool.

Montana’s lone congressman, Representative Denny Rehberg voted against reforming Wall Street in a vote on the floor of the House yesterday.

We’re making a list, checking it twice, gonna find out who’s naughty and who’s nice – congressional elections are coming, to town.

Missoula’s Poverello Center – like other homeless shelters across Montana – have been inundated this week due to sub-zero weather. The Pov has been overmaxed this week, sleeping over 100 on Thursday night. You can help by clicking that link above and dropping $5 or $15 or $50 bucks.

Sometimes you come across something on the intertubes that is unexpected and smart. This post did that for me, and it’s about the escalation of the war in Afghanistan. A superb arrangement of words which ignored all economy.

Couple of short interesting ones….

Out of Bozeman, a 140-year old Christmas cactus.

There’s a huge-ass iceburg floating off of Australia. Be sure to click through the pictures.

Global warming, schmobal warming, right?

In geekdome this week, I found a link on the state’s website for all the state’s online news sources.

I also found Google Scholar. This week it started offering federal and state opinions and patents….which is sure gonna hit up market sources like LexisNexis and Westlaw.

Still more – I am loving Google Scholar – here is a blog post which explains how to use the site. Which means I’ll be bookmarking that blog, too.

Out of Bozeman (again!), we’ve got gravel pits and zoning rising to the surface once again. Remember and the hullaboo about gravel pits about a year or so ago? Well, all that emergency zoning (in lots of places – we’ve the same emergency zoning that occurred here in Lolo) is coming due, placing pressure on local governments to get ‘er done.

Mainly because the legislature failed us, due to GOP amendment of what had been a darn good bill from Bozeman’s representative J.P. Pomnichowski.

I’m closing here with this one: I’ve not been over to Wulfgar!’s in a while, mainly because he’s been so sporadic and I end up getting out of pattern in my surfing. His beloved pooch Mara passed away more than a week ago, and I see he has a post up about her, which I am off to read. That kind of loss is so wrenching, so loyal or pets are. I still dream of my chessie Sadie, wonderful companion that she was.

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.

by JC

Rick Gold over at at Montana Legal Eagle reminds us today that the Montana Constitution also guarantees “the rights of pursuing life’s basic necessities” to all people in the state. His recent article, “Security vs Liberty in Missoula MT” gets right to the point:

So maybe, the real issue is this: Missoulians giving up more of our essential liberties on the pretext that our police don’t have enough laws at their disposal to deal with aggressive and/or intimidating behaviors, downtown (only during the summer, of course).

Well, in Missoula, we simply call this situation mere political bull pucky playing ….

Bull pucky indead! Add a Montana State Constitution violation to the list of travesties that the proposed ordinances are going to foist on Montanans. So not only is the sleeping in public ordinance an 8th Amendment violation, it most likely violates the state Constitution.

And welcome to the local blogosphere, Rick. I’ve seen your emails come across the intertubes over the years, but hadn’t seen your digs yet. For those who don’t know Rick, he’s been waging a personal battle here for quite a while:

“My purpose with this blog is to help flesh out the issues in equal protection in Montana’s Court system for low income people in protecting Montanan’s Civil Rights.”

And you can read all about it over at Montana Legal Eagle’s Blog.

And don’t forget that Aug. 12th is the next date for the City Council to take up its two new ordinances in Committee, I believe. Nothing up on the city website yet.

by JC

Really??? And just how does the two new ordinances under consideration accomplish that?

“The working group aims to protect and improve quality of life in downtown Missoula for all people who use the area, including business owners, people who live and work downtown, shoppers and patrons of professional offices, and people who are without means and depend on social services,” said city communications director Ginny Merriam

When the Panhandling Work Group and its town crier resort to this sort of political, nonsensical happy speak, you know that they are worried about perceptions more than they are about reality. And Councilman Strohmaier aims to pick up the battle on August 12th, with a renewed attempt to move the ordinance.

Much better would be finding some more solutions for the homelessness we have in Missoula and Montana. Somehow, I don’t think the number of beds available in local shelters is anywhere near able to meet the numbers of homeless in Missoula, judging by what I’ve seen in encampments and car sleeping around town.

So I have a nice resource for those who want to combat these immoral ordinances:

The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty has a a 12 page booklet entitled “Combating the Criminalization of Homelessness.” Here’s an excerpt:

——–
What Are the Problems with Criminalization?

Besides the clear moral problem of punishing someone for carrying out life-sustaining activities in public when there are no other alternatives, there are also legal concerns. Criminalization may violate at least four Constitutional amendments.

For example, when a city creates a prohibition against panhandling but allows firefighters to solicit donations, First Amendment concerns are raised because the government is permitting one type of oral expression but not another.

The Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable search and seizure of property, is implicated when a city decides to destroy homeless persons’ tents and personal possessions without giving either notice of its plans or a process for allowing the people to first claim their property.

The Eighth Amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. If a court punishes a homeless person for performing life-sustaining activities in public, like sleeping, there could be an Eighth Amendment violation if the homeless person had no where else to perform the activity (necessary for survival).

The Fourteenth Amendment equal protection clause may be violated if police routinely only cite homeless people for sleeping in a public park but allow business people to nap in the park undisturbed.

These are only some of the constitutional concerns raised by criminalization ordinances.
———

Oh, and I would be remiss here if I didn’t provide a nice link to the ACLU’s press release where they won an 8th Amendment case against the city of LA’s criminalization of homelessness laws:

“The Eighth Amendment prohibits the City from punishing involuntary sitting, lying, or sleeping on public sidewalks that is an unavoidable consequence of being human and homeless without shelter in the City of Los Angeles,” Judge Wardlaw wrote [for the 9th U.S. Circuit].

I hope someone at the Montana ACLU or Montana Human Rights Network is paying attention here. And a hat tip to Klemz for referring to this case!

by JC

The Panhandling Working Group, of “Real Change, Not Spare Change” fame, is bringing its newest brainchildren, the “Missoula Aggressive Solicitation Act” and its companion “Pedestrian Interference Act” before City Council for a hearing this Monday night in Council chambers.

Not satisfied with the regular process, where approved ordinances become effective after 30 days, Councilman Strohmaier believes that because:

“the summer months are the time of year when aggressive panhandling has typically been identified as a problem in downtown Missoula–hence, the desire for the ordinance to take effect as soon as possible”

the ordinances should be emergencies demanding immediate implementation. Never mind the fact that there are serious constitutional questions about both ordinances, as they attempt to define speech and behavior in public and on the public rights-of-way.

While the PWG should be commended for its efforts to raise funds for nonprofits serving Missoula’s less fortunate, I fear these ordinances will have a backlash that may undo much of the goodwill that has been fostered.

Even though the ordinances have built-in disclaimers about constitutionality:

Severability. If… this ordinance is for any reason held to be invalid or unconstitutional, such decision shall not affect the validity of the remaining portions of this ordinance.

if Council is shown to have screwed up (and the law will surely be tested and challenged), they want to keep on enforcing as much of the ordinance as possible.  Looking at the next ordinance, it becomes clear that much of the entire Pedestrian Interference ordinance is suspect, also:

It is unlawful for any person to lay or sleep upon any street, sidewalk or other public right-of-way within the city limits.

So much for chillin’ at the park, or Farmer’s Market. How about freedom of speech?

“Soliciting” shall mean asking for money or objects of value, with the intention that the money or object be transferred at that time and at that place. Soliciting shall include using the spoken, written or printed word, bodily gestures, signs or other means for the purpose of urging, requesting, commanding or obtaining an immediate donation of money or other thing of value or soliciting the sale of goods or services.

The solicitation ordinance then goes on to prohibit soliciting in a long list of ways, including if the person engages in:

“Intentionally touching or causing physical contact with another person without that person’s consent in the course of soliciting;”

Like, putting out your hand to shake someone else’s before you ask them to throw a quarter in the “Real Change, not Spare Change” bucket. This is but one of a long line of ridiculous scenarios that can be raised that will become illegal in Missoula.

There is no emergency demanding that these ordinances be rushed through council, and implemented the next day. While the PWG may mean well, they should go back to the drawing boards on this one, and start over.

Ellie Hill had this to say about the ordinances over at Missoula Red Tape:

Pov director Ellie Hill said the nonprofit supports defining inappropriate behaviors and creating consequences for those actions. That’s as long as the rules in the ordinance apply as equally to the aggressive Girl Scout cookie seller as they do to a bellligerent old dude.

But Hill said the Pov isn’t going to get behind the ordinance that bans sleeping or snoozing on streets and sidewalks. She said one Pov supporter called her and wanted to remind her of the story of the Good Samaritan. That good guy was helping the person on the streets — not slapping him with a misdemeanor as the ordinance proposes.

“To me, that’s the very definition of criminalizing poverty,” Hill said. “It’s wrong. How can you provide criminal consequences for being poor? Or having nowhere else to sit? Or nowhere else to sleep at night?”

Right on Ellie!

Head on over to CC Chambers Monday night, or give your local councilors a call or email to let them know how you feel about Missoula’s newest foray into restricting basic human rights and freedom of speech!


Update:

The Missoulian ran an article about the issue today, in prep for tomorrow’s hearings. Here is what one person who may be affected by the ordinances had to say about the fines ($100) for breaking them:

“It’s pretty ridiculous to give tickets to guys like us when you know we can’t pay them”

Duh. So what does Missoula Police Department Chief Mark Muir have to say? That “he won’t consider the rules successful if police have to write a lot of tickets.”

So what’s the point of having an ordinance with a fine for tickets that the perps can’t pay, and the Police Chief deems unsuccessful if they have to write many? Think about that. It leads me to some pretty ugly outcomes.

by jhwygirl

The Washington Post had an article in Sunday’s paper – More Families are Becoming Homeless – which included a statistic for Montana:

In Mississippi, the number of homeless increased 42 percent last year; in Wyoming, 40 percent; in Montana and Missouri, 23 percent; and in Iowa, 22 percent.

What to say? Supposedly, Montana is not suffering to the degree other states are with regards to the economic downturn – yet that statistic tells otherwise.

I don’t know how this number translates locally. Is Missoula seeing more families? More veterans? More homeless people?

Montana is always behind whatever it is going on economically in California…and if you haven’t heard, they’re sinking pretty low. They starting issuing IOU’s for payments, and now the largest banks quit cashing them (or threatened to) on Friday. Fitch cut the state’s bond rating from A-minus to BBB, which is just above junk status.

I’m no financial wizard, but that tells me that Montana will have more downhill to go before things start picking up. Hell – 50% of Montanans are from out of state – and our new home housing industry has long been driven by out-of-state buyers. On KPAX yesterday, I heard that our new housing starts are down 40% statewide.

2009 Legislative Session cuts to the Department of Public Health and Human Services leave this situation all the more troubling.

by Pete Talbot

The Salcido Center — a downtown daytime hangout for the homeless — was up for a hearing in a city government committee meeting. Apparently, it’s running short on funding and could use some help.  Salcido Center staff was asking the council to sign a letter asking the state for a grant.

First, kudos to the Baptists. They allow their facility at 308 W. Pine St. to be used for the daytime drop-in center. Dare I say it? It’s very Christian of them.

On the flip side of the coin is Councilwoman Renee Mitchell, Ward 5.  According to her, the folks using the Salcido Center want to be homeless and this place enables them.  Yup.  The homeless enjoy their addictions and dysfunctions and the traumas in their lives that have put them in their situations. And they love sleeping on the street. 

I’ve walked by the center a few times and I’m impressed.  On nice days, there are a few individuals outside catching a smoke. Otherwise, they’re inside: reading, resting, chatting with one another.  This place must make downtown business owners happy — fewer homeless hanging out in front of their shops, or in the alleys, or various parks and green spaces around the downtown area.  I imagine it makes the cops happy, too.  Plus, as I said earlier, it’s the Christian thing to do,

It should be noted that Ms. Mitchell was the only council member to NOT sign the letter.  (Councilwoman Hellegaard was absent.)  

Unfortunately, Ms. Mitchell isn’t up for election this year.

By the way, I got this news from the city’s listserve, produced by Ward 3’s Bob Jaffe.  It’s an invaluable site.

by jhwygirl

I voraciously read and watched and twittered (tweeted?) the Missoulian trial coverage. As a news addict, and being what it was, it was an unsettling feeling. The coverage – the writing, the video stuff? – was so excellent that I compare my recent addiction to my need to check the news every 5 minutes during the beginning throes of the stockmarket/economic meltdown.

Unsettling because of the content it produced. This link will take you to the entire Missoulian coverage since jury selection.

As if reading my mind – I almost email Tristan Scott, the Missoulian reporter, telling him that the story I wanted to hear was Strahan’s mother’s – he deftly covered Strahan’s testimony, and accompanied it with this video. I’m not sure if the video was done by Tim Akimoff (who I know was doing earlier video, and who gains credit for the photo associated with the above-linked Missoulian article.)

That one story evoked stronger emotions in me than anything I can recall in reading all that I had read about Forrest Clayton Salcido’s murder. His last moments – how it senselessly began – how Salcido had the upper hand initially – how Strahan had tried to intervene when St. Dennis began his stomping – and the callous senseless inhumane way in which it ended. The mother who’s son had come home, drunk bloody and shaken, crying. How she came to pick up the phone and call the police the next day.

Scott’s blog, Cops and Courts, has additional coverage.

Understanding the brutality with which Salcido faced his death, and seeing Strahan’s testimony on video, I find myself struggling with an amount of sympathy for Strahan. Certainly more for his mother. Should I? And yet could it have all had never happened if not for other events earlier in the day?

The local Havre Daily News has provided some coverage too. While difficult to read, Leeds rambling coverage tell us that Strahan’s mother had bought the punks their “double-quart” (from Scott’s coverage) of vodka (from Leeds). (The Havre Daily News has this story, which details St. Dennis’ jailhouse phone call confession, and this one which opens the trial.)

What if?

Also out of Leeds’ story we find that after the initial attack, but before the stomping, Salcido had attempted to leave and Strahan had told St. Dennis “not to follow him.”

Leeds’ rambling run-on style illustrates, if anything, the difficulties Missoula County attorney Van Valkenberg had in pulling out these seemingly minutia-like details.

In the video that accompanies Scott’s report on Strahan’s testimony, you can hear Van Valkenberg go back at Strahan after he testifies that he hadn’t stomped on Salcido – “now, are you aware that there has been a forensic examination done of the toe of your shoe?” and Strahan answers “yes.” Van Valkenberg continues: “.. and are you aware that there is blood at the toe of that shoe?” and Strahan answer “yes.”

The verdict, if the twitter times were right, was sometime after 3 p.m. yesterday. Scott has “raw video” of the verdict being handed to the court by the jurors – and it also includes video of St. Dennis’ reaction.

He seems almost excited about the sentencing.

How you prosecute the crime of what were a man’s last moments in life, how you bring to horrible light its horrible brutality, how a reporter covers it, and how a public defender has to defend it, I can not imagine having to be so immersed in something so utterly utterly horrible. It’s work that must be commended, despite how much I’d rather it not be needed at all.

Forrest Clayton Salcido was given some justice this week. There will be more. Too bad it had to happen at all.

by jhwygirl

…you know – one of the two that murdered Forrest Clayton Salcido?

I just want to say that Missoulians are getting some great coverage of a trial I’d just as well wish never had a reason to happen. Both the Missoulian and NBC local televison KECI have sent reporters to Havre for the trial which was moved because of overwhelming news coverage of Salcido’s murder in early December 2007.

Tristan Scott and Tim Akimoff from the Missoulian are there (Tristan being the court reporter, Tim doing video). There have been close to if not more than a dozen stories out of Havre since the trial began on Monday.

They’re both also Twittering. Or Tweeting…whatever the kids are calling it these days. tristanscott and timakimoff if ya’all are tweeting. Me? I’m still trying to figure out what it’ll come in handy for, but I have to admit it does seem nifty.

Because there are so many stories – but this would be good stuff regardless – I wish the Missoulian had a list of all related stories at the end of the web versions. The Montana Standard does it, and I think its great. Keeps me reading

KECI, I know, has a reporter and camera person there too (at least). I caught the coverage on Monday and Tuesday, but missed last night’s edition. Being horrible with names, I’m pretty sure it is the eager Jackie Bartz.

So good stuff for us Missoulians from the Missoulian and KECI. I know I’m watching and reading.

As an aside – I hate that the focus of coverage – and even look at my headline there – is on the criminal rather than the victim. I understand why a real news source can’t put up a headline like “Salcido’s Murderers on Trial,” which is actually what I wanted to put up. Once the criminal element becomes known in any crime, the coverage focus shifts from victim to criminal. I don’t know whether, ultimately, that is right or wrong. It’s something I notice and think about, though.

by jhwygirl

Please consider this an open thread.

The City of Bozeman is just about ready to open its first homeless shelter. Sounds like it was a very worth labor of love amongst a number of community members. Congratulations on your success.

Great Falls nonprofits are using recycling as a method of raising funds. Pacific Recycling – which has a location here in Missoula, too – is partner in the process.

Eartha Kitt – who played Catwoman on the original Batman series – passed away from cancer at age 81. The daughter of a white farmer and a black Cherokee mother, Eartha rose from abject poverty to break barriers in the entertainment field. She gained much notoriety, but not without cost, as she made Richard Nixon’s enemies list for her outspoken anti-Vietnam War stance.
catwoman

Hey! You people in Great Falls! Keep your dogs away from that river! Not one, but two rescues this week. Your firemen there are awesome!

Three out of four – 3 out of 4!are glad Bush is done.

Leonard Downie, Jr., of the Washington Post, ponders Could We Uncover Watergate Today?

This pic was too precious to pass up. It accompanied a New York Times article titled Bush’s Philosophy Stoked Mortgage Bonfire.

a-home-of-your-own1

by jhwygirl

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.

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 jhwygirl

For the second time in as many years, the At-Risk Housing Coalition (ARHC) will hold its annual Project Homeless Connect event on January 31st, 2008.

The At-Risk Housing Coalition was formed by Women’s Opportunity and Resource Development (WORD) in 1993 to initiate a community-wide program to address and bring awareness to our community’s homeless citizens.

On Thursday, Project Homeless Connect will provide a variety of essential services for Missoula’s homeless citizens in one location – services like food, clothing, housing, medical and dental services, mental health counseling, financial services, employment and education, and senior, legal and disability services.

Project Homeless Connect is supported by not only the City of Missoula and Missoula County, but also 50 local agencies and over 150 volunteers.

In conjunction with the event, ARHC will also conduct a survey. Last year the results were shocking:

551 homeless in Missoula
Over half were families with children
33% were employed
53% either rented an apartment or owned a home prior to being homeless
1/2 had lived in Missoula at least 2 years
20% had lived in Missoula all their lives

Veteran’s make up a large portion of homeless people – 25% nationwide. 89% are honorably discharged. 64% served in Vietnam and after, and 67% served 3 or more years in the service. Montana has over 100,000 veterans, ranking 10th per capita in the nation. Needless to say, you can not speak of homelessness without thinking of veterans.

January 31st falls darn near the middle of winter, folks. Those facts are shocking and sad.

Tonight, showing the city’s commitment to addressing homeless issues in Missoula, the Mayor will proclaim this week Homelessness Awareness Week.

If you can offer services or can help with volunteering this Thursday, contact the ARHC coordinator at 258-4650.

by Matt Singer

If you haven’t yet, take five minutes and read Tristan Scott’s deeply moving story about the life and untimely death of Forrest Clayton Salcido, a homeless veteran in Missoula who was viciously murdered a week ago.

The death so far seems to have been the focus more of quiet conversations than of a unified community response. Why? My guess is that the story itself has put a lot of us locals in a state of mild shock. It’s breath-taking in its exposure of how truly evil people can be in their actions.

I can’t promise or reveal much yet, except to say that a bigger community response is now in the works — and that hopefully those of us involved in it can find a way to do justice to Forrest’s life and his tragic death.

In the meantime, the Poverello Center has launched an endowment to help homeless veterans like Forrest.

You can donate online — make sure you specify that your gift is for the endowment.

by Rebecca Schmitz

Two Missoula men were charged Friday with deliberate homicide for allegedly stomping a 56-year-old Navy veteran to death on a walking path, apparently without provocation.

Like many of you, I opened the paper this morning, read the opening sentence of Tristan Scott’s article, and uttered a groan. Mr. Salcido, despite being homeless on occasion, has family here in Missoula. My heart goes out to them today. I’m not even going to try to guess what would cause two moral and mental defectives to murder someone like this; I don’t care. What I care about is that others in Mr. Salcido’s situation have a safe place to go at night. There are a number of shelters here in Missoula and across Montana. Please consider volunteering your time or donating money to one in his name.




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