Missoula’s Refugee Charade Continues

by William Skink

For dying newspapers, controversy means clicks and clicks appeal to advertisers who want to market their products. I got a chance to see this up close with how the Missoulian reported on local homeless issues, maximizing the controversy even if it meant using sources who weren’t the most mentally stable.

The Syrian refugee issue quickly became one of those controversial issues that the Missoulian will milk for all it’s worth. I can see that inclination with the misleading title of the latest article: Missoula gearing up for another round of refugees.

Another round, you ask? When was the first round? Are Syrian refugees already among us, waiting to rape our women and destroy western civilization?

When you read the article, the first round of refugees referenced is the relocation of Hmong refugees from Vietnam, which happened three and a half decades ago. The immediacy of refugees coming, implied by the title of the article, is (purposively?) misleading, possibly intended to stir up the anti-refugee contingent. When dealing with the Missoulian it’s important to remember they are a failing business model desperately trying to stay afloat by stoking controversy.

That said, there are some things in the article I would like to address.

After discussing the challenge of integrating Hmong refugees, the article gets to the current dilemma:

It won’t be on the same scale, but the IRC is back in Missoula, laying the groundwork for another wave of refugees from unknown countries.

The IRC’s Bob Johnson expects that some time before the end of the fiscal year in September, the initial families of what will eventually number 100 men, women and children in the first year will land in Missoula.

They’ll need jobs and housing, schooling, medical care, social services and understanding.

The volunteer group, Soft Landing Missoula, is already busy helping to lay the groundwork. Johnson, who’s stalling his retirement from the IRC’s Seattle office to get the Missoula office up and running, has been to town a couple of times. The position of executive director in Missoula was posted last week.

“We’ve done a lot in conjunction with the IRC to make a lot of those relationships happen,” said Mary Poole of Soft Landing Missoula. “I think it was in January when we started gathering folks together and having meetings with housing people, jobs people, Missoula County Public Schools and the (English Language Learning) programs … anyone we thought would be directly impacted with working for the refugees.”

So, after being told this just a few months ago:

IRC’s visit is only the first step in the process. Being formally approved by an agency would take more analysis and more visits. The agency will examine whether Missoula’s infrastructure can handle the refugees and if so, how many. It will look at housing availability, employment opportunities and funding sources for refugees.

It’s now full steam ahead, starting in September.

Missoula doesn’t have much affordable housing, confirmed by this recent report. There is also a critical lack of available rentals, with Missoula hovering around a 3.9% vacancy rate, much lower than the national average.

Because of this low vacancy rate it is very hard to find people housing. I know this from working at the homeless shelter for seven years. Since opening in the new location, the Poverello Center has been temporarily housing between 120-150 homeless people every night. Why can’t people get into housing in Missoula? Because the rental market is so competitive, if you have any barrier–like bad credit, an eviction or a criminal record–you’re screwed.

Bringing refugees to Missoula will make it more difficult for unhoused individuals already here to find housing. The article acknowledges this housing reality, kind of, but then goes on to talk about refugees not having cars:

The refugee resettlement coincides with a housing crunch in Missoula. But with the relatively low volume of refugees – 25 families spaced out over a year’s time – it’s not expected to reach crisis proportions.

“One of the difficulties in this process is … people are not going to have vehicles,” noted Woodrow, who’s a property manager for the Missoula Housing Authority. “Fortunately we now have no-fare transit, so trying to find housing near transit lines is helpful.”

Woodrow invited Johnson and Soft Landing to an NARPM board meeting in February and said the organization dedicated to ethical landlord practices is trying to put the resettlement advocates in touch with “reputable, above-board property management groups.”

How nice, the refugees will be kept out of “felony flats” and other trailer parks where Missoula’s poor and disabled are relegated. They will also get to avoid the motel trap, where people spend between $700-$1,000 to stay in nasty, bed-bug ridden motel rooms.

Recently I’ve been writing about the deplorable situation we have in Montana when it comes to accessing mental health services. The article acknowledges that refugees will sometimes have preexisting health conditions and trauma-based mental health problems when they arrive. Is Missoula truly prepared for this?

Missoula has another thing to serve refugees that it didn’t have in the 1980s – Partnership Health Center, which has a mission of ensuring access for the underserved and the underinsured.

“I’m real interested on the cultural front what we’ll all learn,” Leahy said. “Depending on the areas and the circumstances that the refugees are coming from, there might be mental health assistance needed. Some refugees, of course, will have experienced some very traumatic events.”

I read this and just shake my head. Partnership Health Center is inundated with the needs that are already critical in our community. Expecting their staff to deal with language barriers and cultural differences on top of what they are already dealing with shows a serious level of ignorance on behalf of the do-gooders.

Here is how the article concludes:

Poole is confident that with the experienced IRC at the tiller and volunteers from Soft Landing eager to dig in, Missoula will be ready for its next round of refugees.

“I think for us, (success) is making sure Missoula itself feels supported, so that it can do its very best to support the refugees in turn,” she said.

She acknowledged the fears, misgivings and opposition the resettlement issue continues to spawn, and agreed that some points are legitimate.

“I don’t think we’re naively thinking this is all going to be Wonderland,” Poole said. “But Missoula does have the capacity to be an amazing home for a lot of people – and it has the potential not to be.”

Do social workers and ER staff and first responders feel supported in Missoula with the issues they already see every day with addiction and mental health? Not from the conversations I’ve had. Is Mary Poole and the rest of the world-saving refugee cheerleaders naively approaching this issue? In my opinion, hell yes.

I don’t expect the harsh reality I witnessed during seven years of shelter work to intrude on the efforts of Soft Landing. As a controversy this issue will get plenty of clicks, which is good for the Missoulian, and as a political wedge issue during an elections season, it will excite the Democratic base in Missoula, giving them another opportunity feel morally superior to the scared-ignorant white people who exist outside the liberal bubble in Missoula.

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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27 Responses to Missoula’s Refugee Charade Continues

  1. Affordable housing? Maybe not. But more importantly, are there any affordable cattle ranches in the valley?

    After some 3,000 Hmong had been flown across the Mekong [Laotian General] Vang Pao and his CIA case officer, Jerry Daniels, a fifteen-year veteran of the secret war, flew out of Long Tieng and into Thailand – an ultimately, to Missoula, Montana, Daniels’ home town, where Vang Pao paid over a half million dollars for a cattle ranch, hog farm, and two large homes. By the end of the year, more than 30,000 Hmong refugees had fled across the Mekong into Thailand, the first wave of a mass exodus that would peak at 3,000 a month by 1979. “War is difficult, peace is hell,” concluded General Vang Pao. (Alfred W. McCoy, The Politics of Heroin, p331)

    Vang Pao, to put it delicately, was a war criminal, but fortunately CIA officer Daniels was able to offer him a soft landing in Missoula. He died in 2011.

  2. I see a lot of parallels between the pro-refugee crowd and the anti-abortion crowd. The former will do all it can to get you here, give you a bit of help when you do arrive, then pretty much forget about you. The latter will care about you for 9 months but then forget about you for 18 years, cutting your food stamp and energy assistance benefits in the process.

    I don’t feel that either group really cares about anyone besides themselves, anything besides their narrow, rose-colored glasses viewpoint.

    I left a comment on that Missoulian article yesterday thanking them for the information. I know when these refugees start experiencing difficulties we’ll see no reporting on it.

  3. Bob Williams says:

    ((Perhaps the USA DOD should pay for refugee re-settlement for Iraqis, Chechens and Afghanis.
    Re-settlement in robust neighborhoods in Bellevue Washington and Marin County California!))
    And refugees from proxy warfare in Syria?
    Well, Republicans and Independents and fact based Democrats can agree that the impractical Iraq strategy of the current Administration might have prolonged the refugee outpouring into Countries already saturated with refugees from the Iraq War of the prior Administration,
    therefore the USA has some responsibility to help find homeland for some of the people driven out of their homeland by USA war and aggression.

    • Big Swede says:

      You’re partly right. Refugees are fleeing their home countries because of violence and instability.

      If we hadn’t cut and run from Iraq ISIS wouldn’t have gained such territorial advances. If our current POTUS had some backbone when he drew that red line Syria may have looked alot different than it does today.

      And finally “free sh*t” and soft targets that Europe (and the US) provides are a attractive incentive.

      • Man, I could swear I just saw every propaganda talking point repeated above … verbatim! ISIS is real, red line was real, gas attack was real, the threat is advancing, soon it will be in Browning, Texas. WE MUST ACT!!!

        • Bob Williams says:

          Mark, that is on the mark!
          Best take on B.Swede comments I have ever experienced!

        • Big Swede says:

          “Individuals experiencing solipsism syndrome feel that the world is not ‘real’ in the sense of being external to their own minds. The syndrome is characterized by feelings of loneliness, detachment and indifference to the outside world. Solipsism syndrome is not currently recognized as a psychiatric disorder by the American Psychiatric Association, though it shares similarities with depersonalization disorder, which is recognized. Solipsism syndrome is distinct from solipsism, which is not a psychological state but rather a philosophical position, namely that nothing exists or can be known to exist outside of one’s own mind; advocates of this philosophy do not necessarily suffer from solipsism syndrome, and sufferers do not necessarily subscribe to solipsism as a school of intellectual thought.”-Wiki.

        • All right, I think I get you. That was humor, but what a crock of shit! For every “disorder” the APA has cooked up, PhRMA has cooked up a $10 pill. Ever hear of a “racket?”

          I am not lonely, detached, or indifferent. I am quite happy. I believe in myself, my abilities, my insight and years and years of poring over books and lectures t int to und Rostand this crazy place. Also, there is objective reality, and that TV and news is not the place to get it., and you are not yet within firing range of it.

          But kudos. Very good response.

        • “…books and lectures trying to understand this crazy place” Is what that should read.,

      • JC says:

        If your boy Bush hadn’t taken us into Iraq, the ME would be a far different place, and ISIS would never had been created.

        And free sh*t? Can you say “oil depletion allowance?”

        • Big Swede says:

          You’re right JC, but leaving after getting there made matters worse. The ME are only subdued by tyrants an/or superpowerd nations. Hussian had to be replaced by an equivalent. Libya is also a prime example.

        • JC says:

          Erdogan is working on rebuilding the Ottoman empire. Turkey also is a NATO member. Who is going to take him down as he slides into other countries like he already is doing in Syria?

          And free sh*t? No comment on the oil depletion allowance?

        • Big Swede says:

          Panama will take Erodogan down and I fail to see the relation between the Oil Depletion Allowance and the hordes of refugees looking for the last crums of socialists nations.

        • JC says:

          You mentioned people looking for free sh*t. Oil barons are looking for all the free sh*t they can get. The oil depletion allowance:

          “the fact that one of the two methods of claiming the allowance makes it possible to write off more than the whole capital cost of the asset.”

          In other words, buy oil, write off more than what it cost from your income. Pay no taxes. That’s some pretty free sh*t for people who don’t need it.

        • Big Swede says:

          So we gotta take 100 thousand refugees, feed, clothe, and educate them because of some accounting rule?

        • JC says:

          Just thought if your concern was people getting free sh*t that you’d maybe see that the amount of money the U.S. taxpayers give oil producers for free far outweighs what even a hundred thousand refugees would cost. I’m not arguing for the refugee resettlements. It’s just that the whole argument is way overblown when placed in context with the fleecing of America that the rich are doing — particularly with laws like the oil depletion allowance and tax shelters that encourage them to do.

          Put another way, for those who engage in the diatribe against the potential fleecing of America by refugees, where’s the outrage against the oligarchs who do so, so blatantly once they’ve captured the legislative and administrative processes? Just pointing out that the hypocrisy of calling out one and not the other renders the sentiment moot.

          You’re smart enough to know that the refugee issue is just a drop in the bucket compared to the real fleecing of America, Swede. Why don’t you speak out against that?

        • Big Swede says:

          Your definition of “free” differs greatly from mine. If an oil company researches an area to drill and successfully finds oil, after many dry holes, and then gets to keep more of the profits that’s considered free.

          Compare that to refugees who don’t employ anyone in regards to their endeavors, who don’t pay royalties, who don’t really contribute to interstuctures and get handed many benefits (including passage) upon reaching our shores.

          Classic givers versus takers.

        • JC says:

          Syrian refugees and their families can become gainfully employed and pay more taxes than oil companies do. Also, they or their children can build companies that contribute to our country and its economy.

          After all, Steve Jobs’ father was a Syrian immigrant, and Jobs built the world’s most valuable company (or close to it depending on stock quotes).

          Immigrants and refugees can become productive members of our society. I think that the main question here is who gets to give them assistance until they become productive. I think that Skink is persuasive when he says our community needs to focus on the problems it already has.

          I think that our military should be paying the costs to resettle refugees, as a consequence of bad foreign policy, and collateral damage our military and intelligence agencies impose on foreign nationals.

          And I think oil companies get plenty of profits without the oil depletion allowance.

        • Conflating the behavior of corporate monopolies and cartels with individual freedom is, to me, the ultimate head-banger of a contradiction.

      • Bush was merely the “antidote” to Clinton, seen as having qualities Clinton lacked, like sincerity and a good family man.So he was given the job for eight years, and then replaced by another who was groomed for the job, seen as having intelligence, which Bush lacked. So Obama was the antidote to Bush.

        I am trying to figure out the antidote to Obama. who has been steady, efficient, likeable, charming, and a good Neocon. I am puzzled. Ted Cruz? Not likeable, not charming … ??? He is a Neocon too. Oh God, don’t tell me Hillary! Certainly not Trump – he’s rogue.

        But it’s interesting how they appoint our leaders.

  4. steve kelly says:

    The next great fake leader may have to be brought in the back door. I’m thinking one of the VP selections will again be the chosen one if the need arises. A la some good ‘ole 1968 retro. Cheney followed by Biden, followed by… ?… will the real insider please stand up? Patience, all will be revealed soon enough.

    • Interesting point – Truman was brought in the back door, and only survived 1948 by election fraud. So we had our first complete fake president.

      Stalin says FDR was “murdered by that Churchill gang,” but it is more and more sounding like disinformation to me, especially since tat story of Elliot’s visit was published in a mainstream source, Parade Magazine, not widely thought of as newsy, but in every Sunday newspaper each week, and so subject to heavy censorship. His death is beginning to get a funny feel about it, as if … maybe he just rolled out the back door as part of the deal that allowed Truman in.

      • Bob Williams says:

        I thought FDR was approaching terminal, so back room bosses
        agreed to back haberdasher Harry.
        Maybe that in the David McCullough book on Truman.
        Kingmakers of Fake Presidents?
        Oh, it’s far worse than that!

        • There was some back room dealing going on, and FDR was far too smart to have no part in it. If he was “approaching terminal,” (or maybe just ready to step,down?), I doubt he thought Truman would be a viable successor. The man was only brought in because he was under a cloud, and so was controllable. Unless FDR himself was a complete fraud.,

  5. Luckyman says:

    Interesting discussion regarding “Free Sh*t” here http://www.stonekettle.com/2016/03/free-stuff.html

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