by William Skink
I am so god damn excited that Missoula is going to have a discussion about homelessness.
Yep, that is what this Missoulian editorial is calling for, a discussion, and not just any discussion, but one that includes the “larger community” in Missoula.
After the preventable emergency that resulted from a chronic lack of prioritization by those who control the budget of our fair city is dealt with, band-aid style, here is how the Missoulian described the next step:
The next step is to get the entire community involved in an ongoing discussion about how to better identify, coordinate and meet the needs of our homeless and at-risk residents before they reach the point of crisis.
Missoula does have a plan, Reaching Home: Missoula’s 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness, adopted in 2012, which aims to provide permanent housing solutions. It also has an Office of Housing and Community Development headed by a director with plenty of experience and expertise on the local homeless situation: Eran Pehan is a former executive director of the Poverello Center.
Going by the decreased number of homeless folks in Missoula despite the housing affordability, these efforts appear to be working. So how did this winter’s emergency arise? And what should Missoula do to better help our homeless in the future? That’s just one of many questions that need to be discussed in depth, not just by the experts and volunteers working to help Missoula’s homeless, but by the larger community.
I hope the larger Missoula community is as god damn excited as I am about this discussion, especially as the majority of this larger community voted to make housing more expensive with the Open Space Bond last month.
The first problem that needs to be addressed is the presumption that the amount of homeless people in Missoula is decreasing. I do not believe that is actually the case, and I further believe the Mayor’s office knows the numbers they are using from the point-in-time survey do not accurately reflect the reality of homelessness in Missoula.
How many active names are on the Coordinated Entry System’s by-name list? It’s important to say “active” because if you, as a homeless person, aren’t calling 211 every month to let them know you are still homeless, you become “inactive”. Either that number, or the number of unduplicated homeless individuals served by the Poverello Center for overnight shelter would give a more accurate picture of homelessness in Missoula.
Those numbers exist. If I was a reporter, I would be curious what those numbers are.
Another question I would ask, were I reporter, is what was actually accomplished during the first 4 years Michael Moore was the director of the 10 year plan to end homelessness? My opinion, which comes from direct experience, is that Michael was not qualified to move the plan forward, but no one else wanted the job, so he got it. Combine that with a lack of supervision from the leadership of United Way, and you get 4 years of nothing much getting accomplished.
If people in our larger Missoula community want to know how we got to the winter of 2018 without a better plan to keep people from dying of exposure, I am available and open to any and all educational opportunities. Hit me up at willskink at yahoo dot com.