Where Is Funding And Formalizing Outdoor Homeless Encampments Leading To?

by Travis Mateer

One of Missoula’s “solutions” to its homeless crisis is the Transitional Safe Outdoor Space located south of Missoula off highway 93. This approach is being used in other communities, like San Francisco, at a MUCH LARGER COST than what we’re currently forking out. Here is some info about Missoula’s outdoor camp:

Hicks says to operate the space it cost a little less than $1,000 per resident per month.

Right now, they have a lease for the property for $1 a year.

They hope they can make the space permanent but transitional for those who go to the space, using funds from the American Rescue Plan Act.

In San Francisco, this same approach costs around $5,000 dollars to manage, per tent, every month. That is insane. From the link:

In the six “Safe Sleeping Villages” set up by the city of San Francisco during the pandemic, the cost of maintaining a single tent-camping spot is $5,000 per month, or $61,000 per year — more than it would cost to put each of these people in a market-rate apartment.

The cost boils down to $190 per tent per night, which includes 24-hour security, bathrooms, maintenance, and three meals per day. This is cheaper than the per-day cost for the hotel program, but the hotel program is getting 100% federal reimbursement

What makes this cost even more problematic is the erroneous assumption officials made about reimbursement from FEMA. From the same article:

Apparently, supervisors have been operating under the assumption that this program, like the hotel program for the homeless, would get covered by FEMA reimbursement. It turns out, it will not, though Stewart-Kahn said it does qualify as a group shelter.

Hopefully Missoula officials aren’t operating on the same faulty assumptions.

While the Incident Command Team searches our valley for a second outdoor locations for a second outdoor homeless camp, I’m searching the information landscape for signs of what’s to come, like zoning changes allowing these camps to eventually transform into tiny home villages with support services.

On the surface, this isn’t inherently a bad thing, but I’m a suspicious-minded person with a long-cultivated sense of cynicism from a decade working in Missoula’s non-profit sector, so I tend to look for evidence of greed and increased government control over the lives of materially dispossessed.

Add a few other ingredients, like the research of Alison McDowell, and what could be emerging are the trends leading us to a totalitarian, technocratic dystopia.

So stay tuned…

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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