Standing Up To The Mayor And City Council About Inaction On Homelessness In Missoula

by William Skink

On Monday night over a dozen people showed up to City Council to express their concern that our elected officials are not doing enough to address homelessness in Missoula. Today is Wednesday, and so far only KECI has reported on this. Nothing in the Missoulian or the Missoula Current. From the link:

When public comments began, the first person spoke on the issue and prompted everyone with him to stand up. Dozens of people rose to stand with him.

Elizabeth Marshall works for the housing authority. She often works with at-risk homeless people.

“One of my tenants left about a year and a half ago hoping he would sober up. It didn’t work out, he was back on the streets. Last March, on one of our last cold nights, my tenant and friend Wade died outside my office,” said Marshall.

She was one of half a dozen speakers hoping to appeal to the city council about the issue. Some of the speakers were even homeless themselves or have been homeless in the past.

“Every time I go in and out of my office for as long as I work there I will walk through where Wade spent his last moments. I want to put a personal face on this reality in our community,” said Marshall.

It took a lot of guts for Marshall to stand there and describe the harsh reality in Missoula that ultimately condemned her friend and client to death because of his substance abuse. I knew Thomas Wade as well, and discussed his passing with Elizabeth when it happened last March. That was the same month the Fire Department shut down Union Gospel Mission’s warming center efforts, and barred the Salvation Army from doing anything similar without a permit.

So what did our alcoholic Mayor who used the public disclosure of his substance abuse to launch his reelection efforts have to say to Elizabeth Marshall and the dozens of people who stood up to City Council? Here is what he said:

Mayor John Engen addressed the concerned crowd saying he looks forward to working with them to find solutions.

“We are doing some stuff. I’d like to talk to you about what we’re doing. I’d like to talk to you about what we hope to do. And certainly having your voices at the table would be enormously helpful,” said Engen.

Are you fucking kidding me, Mayor? You’re “doing some stuff”, huh? What the hell does that mean? And why would you need to “find solutions” when an entire goddamn study was commissioned and an entire goddamn plan to end homelessness was put into effect 6 fucking years ago?

Let’s just admit that part of the plan to reduce homeless numbers in Missoula is to keep the cruel and sometimes lethal gaps in place to either kill homeless people or force those without connections to this area to move along. Is that part of the plan, Mayor Engen?

And the media has been pretty pathetic as well. The Missoulian, just earlier this month, had an op-ed about homelessness, which I wrote about here. They said our community needs to have a conversation, but no one at the Missoulian reported on dozens of people standing up to confront the inaction by elected officials on Monday.

And I don’t see any critical media pushing back on the message that the amount of homeless people is declining in Missoula. It is not, but you wouldn’t know that if all you read was the stenography from the skeletal remains of local media.

The Salvation Army is moving forward now that they have secured the funding to hire for their warming center, but they should be weary of elected officials. I had one elected official throw them under the bus in a conversation I can’t write directly about yet.

In my opinion, the Salvation Army should be commended for being willing to put a band-aid on this crisis, providing some convenient ass-covering for those responsible for fixing our broken systems. Instead, the rhetoric from at least one council person was to scapegoat them for not doing more. And that was after the outcry from politically correct Missoula that the Salvation Army was not inclusive enough to be allowed to keep homeless people from dying in our liberal utopia.

I want to thank everyone who showed up, and stood up, to City Council and the Mayor on Monday night. Unless this issue becomes a PR problem for elected officials, like the sidewalk fiasco, this issue will continue getting a back seat to the development and gentrification that is the true priority for the Mayor and City Council.

UPDATE: The Missoulian did cover this, but in an article about the Salvation Army, which I had not read yet.

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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9 Responses to Standing Up To The Mayor And City Council About Inaction On Homelessness In Missoula

  1. Djinn&Tonic says:

    But, but… Putin!

  2. Our community is run by a small group of people for the benefit of a small group of people. Backscratch, USA

  3. Djinn&Tonic says:

    Happy Christmas and New Years to All…

  4. Big Swede says:

    “Seattle is under siege. Over the past five years, the Emerald City has seen an explosion of homelessness, crime, and addiction. In its 2017 point-in-time count of the homeless, King County social-services agency All Home found 11,643 people sleeping in tents, cars, and emergency shelters. Property crime has risen to a rate two and a half times higher than Los Angeles’s and four times higher than New York City’s. Cleanup crews pick up tens of thousands of dirty needles from city streets and parks every year.
    At the same time, according to the Puget Sound Business Journal, the Seattle metro area spends more than $1 billion fighting homelessness every year. That’s nearly $100,000 for every homeless man, woman, and child in King County, yet the crisis seems only to have deepened, with more addiction, more crime, and more tent encampments in residential neighborhoods. By any measure, the city’s efforts are not working.”-Seattle City Journal

    Like always, when you subsidize something you get more of it.

    • Big Swede says:

      And there’s more.

      City Journal – The evidence suggests that higher rents alone don’t push people onto the streets. 80 percent suffer from drug and alcohol addiction and 30 percent suffer from serious mental illness. Studies suggest that 40 percent to 50 percent of the homeless moved to those cities for their permissive culture and generous services. 63 percent of the street homeless refuse shelter when offered. Nothing is apparently more important to the activists than their public display of compassion—certainly not the growing number of depraved incidents at homeless encampments or involving homeless people. Homelessness might rise or fall, but the leaders of the homeless-industrial complex always get paid.

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