by William Skink
The first problem with Missoula’s winter shelter plan, scheduled to begin November 1st, is that it is scheduled to begin November 1st.
As I fishtailed home on a sheet of ice this evening I thought about the conversations that might happen tonight at the Poverello Center. Are staff going to say sorry man, I know the weather could kill you tonight, but if you survive the next few days we’ll totally shelter you on Friday.
No, I don’t think that’s going to happen, but if staff were to follow a strict reading of the “winter shelter plan” then that is what they should be telling people who can’t stop drinking to save their lives, right?
The Poverello Center tried relaxing its zero tolerance policy on sheltering people who are under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs years ago. I know because I worked there and was partly responsible for creating and implementing the policy.
Back then we used temperature, not an arbitrary date on the calendar. And we ultimately abandoned the policy because it was just too difficult and dangerous for everyone involved. Our staff at the time did not have the training and we did not have a proper facility to work with people who had complicated mental and physical health conditions, like seizures and other complications if they abstained from drinking for too long.
I’m worried for the staff at the Poverello Center, and I’m worried for those who are continuing to live outside during cold weather months.
I am pretty sure someone has already died as a result of living at the Reserve Street camps. I have heard the same story from several service providers that two people went to the hospital after something happened with how they were heating their tent, and one person ended up dying.
If rules aren’t bent tonight, like Pov staff ignoring the obvious intoxicated guy swaying in line during dinner, then more people could perish in our liberal utopia because they have no where to live.
What a disgrace.