Reality Intrudes on Illusion Missoula is a Welcoming Community

by William Skink

In today’s Missoulian (h/t JC) it would appear that the illusion of Missoula being a welcoming community for refugees has hit a snag: reality.

The title of the article–Missoula refugees face housing issues–says it all. I guess the liberal do-gooders forgot to include reality in their exhaustive preparation to bring refugees to Missoula:

Congolese refugees and the people trying to help them get settled in Missoula are facing a housing crisis.

Five families from refugee camps in East Africa will be in town by the end of September, none of them with a source of steady income or credit history.

It’s the job of the local resettlement agency, the International Rescue Committee, to help them secure both as quickly as possible, said IRC director Molly Short Carr.

But record home sales prices in Missoula have placed rentals at a premium. And in a town that swells this time of year with university students – many with no credit ratings themselves – property managers and landlords can afford to be picky about who they rent to.

“We’re kind of hitting a bit of a brick wall,” Carr admitted.

Yeah, no shit refugees are facing a housing crisis. It’s the same goddamn housing crisis I have been writing about for years, and guess what? It’s not just refugees facing this crisis.

This article has my blood boiling. Anyone working in social services could have informed these do-gooders about what the reality of finding housing in Missoula looks like when you don’t have established credit or an income, but I doubt reality would have stopped morally righteous white saviors like Mary Poole from going full steam ahead with bringing families into this gentrified, unaffordable mountain town.

Here’s more from the article:

“We’re really trying to reach out to everybody who has a unit that would be sufficient to our needs,” Carr said. “So far the response has not been very great. We don’t fit into a mold.”

Landlords and property managers have a structure they use to vet potential tenants, she said. “That includes credit checks and background checks, which is something you can’t do with refugees.”

The IRC doesn’t allow its offices to co-sign for refugees.

“Our focus is really on getting them self-sufficient,” said Carr. “Co-signing is kind of a contradiction to self-sufficiency and being able to guide their own lives.”

What the hell were these people thinking? Did they do any research about housing in Missoula? Do they not read the fucking newspaper that reports on the stark reality of stagnant wages and the skyrocketing price of housing?

The illusion that Missoula is a welcoming community starts to unravel when the nuts and bolts of obtaining housing becomes evident. If you have enough money, good credit, and a solid rental history, then yes, Missoula will welcome you with open arms. But if you don’t have all that then you’ll be lucky to find some slumlord to rent to you, or you will be paying hundreds of dollars a week to stay in some bed-bug ridden motel room.

The article also touches on the initial financial support extended to refugees, including being immediately eligible for TANF:

The U.S. State Department supplies a one-time grant of $1,125 for each arriving refugee, including children, to cover housing and other costs for the first 90 days. The money is managed by Carr’s office, not turned over in a lump sum to the family.

Follow-up federal programs, such as one that provides refugees matching grants for financial support for up to six months, allow local agencies to focus on securing employment for adult refugees. Carr said the newcomers are immediately eligible for either Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or refugee cash assistance through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement.

“We do have significant financial support to get refugees into permanent housing,” Carr said. “We’re not looking for housing that’s, like, low income, and we’re not looking for any kind of special assistance. What we’re looking for is to find a way to collaborate with property managers and landlords that allows them to take into account that you don’t have a way to do credit checks, and they don’t have jobs when they get here.”

Isn’t that nice? I especially like the part where Carr says they aren’t looking for housing that’s, like, low income. Well, guess what, if that’s all that’s available for refugees with no credit and no job, then what the hell is the problem with low income housing? If it’s good enough for people without stellar credit or enough deposit money for first and last month’s rent, then it is probably good enough for refugees fleeing war zones and refugee camps.

I’m sure these barriers will be creatively broken down for the refugees, but what about everyone else? For anyone with poor credit, an eviction, a criminal record, or just not enough money for first and last month’s rent, the barriers will remain as Missoula becomes more and more economically exclusive.

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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11 Responses to Reality Intrudes on Illusion Missoula is a Welcoming Community

  1. It’s not just Missoula. It is not even just Montana. People are squeezed and, homelessness is at crisis stage just about everywhere.

    Another fun thing to follow up on would be Blackrock. How has their experiment of renting all of those properties they scooped up in the great recession unfolded?

    • I think you mean the Blackstone group, Carla. here is how Truthout put it a few years ago:

      Banksters can’t run the same scam as they did during the housing crisis.

      So, they’ve found a new way to come up with real-estate-backed securities that can be turned into derivatives, worth billions in profits.

      How? They’ve become landlords.

      As Marilyn Volan points out over at TomDispatch, in the past year and a half, banksters in Wall Street hedge funds, big banks and private equity firms have purchased hundreds of thousands of mostly-foreclosed houses across the country.

      Among the firms and big banks buying up America’s real estate is the Blackstone Group, the largest private equity firm in the world. The Blackstone Group alone has bought nearly 40,000 houses across America, spending $7.5 billion in the process.

      Blackstone, for example, bought 1,400 homes in Atlanta in one day, and owns nearly 2,000 houses in the Charlotte, North Carolina metro area.

      So why are Blackstone and other Wall Street firms buying up foreclosed homes all across the country?

      It’s simple.

      By renting these homes back to Americans, and securitizing America’s home-rental market, they can bundle up rental payments the same way they used to bundle mortgage payments, and sell them to investors.

      Sounds awfully familiar, doesn’t it?

      • It was the Blackstone group that I was referencing. Black Rock reputedly took over the toxic mortgage assets for the Treasury in 2009. I must have been confused about Where Pete Peterson and Stephen Schwarzman were leaving their fingerprints.

  2. JC says:

    Well, at least the right can crow about no Syrian refugees getting settled in Montana in this round:

    None of the 10,000 Syrian refugees allowed into the United States since President Barack Obama set that threshold last fall landed in Montana.

    Why? Pretty simple:

    …most have been sent to more affordable, medium-size cities. Boise, Idaho, has accepted more refugees than New York and Los Angeles combined…

    Those who do not have family in the United States are placed where jobs are more plentiful and the cost of housing is low.

    I guess Missoula doesn’t make the grade for being affordable, having plentiful jobs, or having low cost housing. Who woulda thunk it?

    Maybe we just got the Congolese refugees because they were not as visible, nationally or politically, as the Syrians?

  3. Big Swede says:

    I like the quote, “without income and credit history”. They don’t even speak the language let alone read and write.

    But more importantly the average IQ of a Congolese is 78. That’s AVERAGE. Which means the for every genius at 88 there’s a Down Syndrome 68. What the chances of employment and credit histories do these intruders have?

    All that’s important is the money made bringing them here and the effect it has on changing our self reliant culture into a death spiral of dependency.

  4. Big Swede says:

    On a related note leprosy is now confirmed in a CA school.

    Gee, I wonder where that came from?

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