It’s A Mistake To Think Housing Will Solve The Houseless Drug Epidemic

by Travis Mateer

There’s a term that describes a portion of the “houseless” population that eschew conventional methods of assistance toward housing, and that term is “shelter resistant”.

Why would someone be “shelter resistant”, you might be wondering? And why would someone, if given the chance at housing, possibly say NO to that chance?

Well, housing costs money, even when it’s heavily subsidized, and though it might be hard to believe, there are plenty of individuals who have some form of financial assistance, like a monthly disability check, and how they misuse this limited resource is often ENABLED by well-meaning support services.

There are also people who are just plain menacing with their drug-induced behavior, like the guy to the right of the woman in red walking into a local dentist office off Higgins yesterday. Here’s a screenshot from the brief clip I recorded:

I heard this guy before I saw him because he was yelling quite loudly at something. When I finally saw him, and observed his outbursts, I realized he was doing what the mental health professionals would call “responding to internal stimuli”. Here’s a closer look at the dude:

Do you see the direction he is looking? That’s right, he is looking toward the dentist office where the woman in red entered. And guess what he did next? That’s right, he went in right after her. What did I do? I got the magic numbers ready to go on my phone in case he flipped out, then I walked in myself and sat down in the tiny waiting room.

The man approached the desk and said something I couldn’t hear, then left. It was a quick interaction. After he exited the dentist office, he stopped on the sidewalk and started punching the air. I pointed this out to the two older women in the waiting room. I asked the woman in red if she had been worried about him, and she said yes, she had noticed him on her way in, then was worried when he came in after her. She made note the drink in his hand was a Rockstar, not alcohol.

How will our city leaders respond to the houseless drug epidemic? Probably blame the state for not giving them enough money while ALSO claiming the bully transphobes in Helena are murdering democracy like a Missoula County Sheriff Deputy shooting a black man in the back.

If you want to hear what well-paid scapegoating sounds like, my former boss is a REAL professional. What did she have to say at the recent press conference about the city’s inability to address homeless camps popping up everywhere along river trails and parks? Something about homes and pipelines. The quote is below the link (emphasis mine):

“We know the only solution to homelessness is a home. That remains our primary focus,” said Eran Pehan. “We have good things to report with Trinity and Villagio leasing up right now. We’re continuing to build that pipeline so we can provide more homes in our community.”

Pehan, director of the city’s office of Community Planning, Development and Innovation, joined city and county officials last week in warning that funding available to shelter the homeless is limited. Without a new revenue stream, many programs and services they feel are valued by the public will vanish.

The issue was amplified in part by last year’s failed levy, which would have provided up to $5 million annually for local crisis services. Inflation also has added costs to basic necessities while Medicaid changes at the state level will rob thousands of Montanan’s of critical medical coverage.

I will continue to note that the failed crisis mill levy is NOT money that would have been coming online right now, so what we are seeing, very visibly, in everyone’s faces, is NOT the result of voters saying no to the money our city and county leaders did a piss-poor job of selling to the beleaguered taxpayers.

So, who has the money to subsidize the development to cover the inflation to make the right people enough money so that something magical called WORKFORCE HOUSING can be created? Let’s hear from the Senator (who is worried about his reelection prospects) about squeezing Uncle Sam for some Federal loot (emphasis mine):

“Everywhere I go in Montana, I hear about the lack of affordable housing,” Tester said. “It’s killing rural America, and it’s driving folks out of the communities they’ve lived in their whole lives. Too often, one-size-fits-all policies from Washington don’t work for Montana, and that’s why it’s critical we work with folks on the ground on solutions that actually work to increase affordable housing supply in our rural communities.”

Ah yes, politics. For the AG who might be challenging this flat-topped showman, might I suggest a counter-offer of some sturdy, iron-barred, micro-housing?

As I continue to go about ASSESSING and ADDRESSING local issues around the houseless population and public safety, a focus of my messaging will be around trash and the flood stage that could be reached later this week.

I actually spoke with Office of Emergency Management Director, Adrienne Beck, about this yesterday and the shift in how houseless people are dispersed this year could be a variable that provides new challenges. In past years the “shelter-resistant” population most at risk of getting caught in rising river water were primarily under and around the Reserve Street bridge, but that area has been cleaned up and is not being patrolled by private security.

Instead of piling on more serious news about unstable people on drugs and homeless river encampments, how about seeing this stuff through my artistic lens?

Below is an audio recording of a poem I wrote while sitting where Todd’s meth shack once stood, and it leads to a song about revolution. I’m calling this one Meth Shack Revolution! I hope you enjoy it, and please consider supporting Travis’ Impact Fund (TIF), or you can make a donation at my about page.

Thanks for reading/listening!

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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1 Response to It’s A Mistake To Think Housing Will Solve The Houseless Drug Epidemic

  1. John Kevin Hunt says:

    Eran Pehan and the rest of the Engenite apparatchiks will continue touting these TIF-fueled housing projects as “game changing” solutions to the problems associated with large scale homelessness, when they know that isn’t true. And people who are shelter-resistant due to mental illness, and/or addiction, obviously aren’t candidates for the type of housing funded via MRA, which I maintain is not intended by the architects of the current schema to “end homelessness,” but rather to churn big public bucks into big bureaucrat salaries and big profits for multistate development consortiums, the managing partner (from Spokane) of one of them who flatly contradicted Pehan’s claim that the Ravarra project’s small percentage of “affordable” units would not be affordable for only the highest of local wage-earners.

    It sickens me to consider the resources that could have been available for addressing unhoused peoples’ needs, helping the addicted and disabled mentally ill, and creating a safe and environmentally healthy community, but for the legalized Ponzi schemes, shell games and official propaganda practiced by Pehan, et al.

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