Letting Boys Cry…

by William Skink

Last Sunday our cat, Tiger, was killed, we think by a car on the dirt road where we live. Our neighbors, who we haven’t talked to once in the 3 years since we’ve lived at our current address, found him on the road and put him in the trash.

The wife came out when she heard me calling for him as I biked down the road. I’m glad she did, because they’re moving out, and I’m not sure they would have put much effort into reaching out had I not been biking down our road hoping for the best.

The best didn’t happen for us, and our two oldest are devastated. There was lots of crying, from all of us, except the little one who didn’t really understand what had happened.

So why am I telling you this sad pet death story? I have two reasons.

The first one is life is hard and taking a step back can be a good thing. Maybe a few weeks, maybe months, I don’t know.

The second one is be present for the people in your life who matter. Grief is a process thrust upon all of us at some point. Give grief the space to breathe. Teach your kids emotional intelligence.

Especially our boys, who need it most.

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Crime, Addiction And A Convenient Homeless Shelter Scapegoat

by William Skink

It’s unfortunate that with all the stirring, well articulated Westside testimonials about drugs and crime and, apparently, voyeurism, at City Council last night, the picture used by the Missoula Current is one of the Poverello Center.

It won’t matter that correlation is not causation, meaning that drug abuse has been sky-rocketing across the state and nation the last few years, coinciding with the relocation of Missoula’s homeless shelter. If people don’t feel safe it’s pointless to point out the logical fallacy of assuming moving the shelter to West Broadway created the problems Westside residents are now rightfully concerned about.

Since the Missoula Current made the editorial decision to focus visually on the homeless shelter and not, say, the casino or dirtbag motels, I feel compelled to point out some obvious things about our community’s homeless shelter:

The staff at the Poverello Center don’t have the power to arrest people like the police and Sheriff’s department do. The Poverello Center doesn’t sell alcohol, like the casino and Zip Trip do, and they don’t deal drugs like the drug dealers do. Unlike the motels, the Poverello Center has a zero tolerance policy for drugs and alcohol.

Like the jail, the Poverello Center does have an overcrowding problem. And like the rest of the state of Montana, the Pov is drowning in the dire need being exacerbated by multiple factors beyond their control, like budget cuts that decimated supportive services.

Last week, at Missoula’s City Club, Montana Attorney General Tim Fox spoke about the “frightening level” of substance abuse happening across the state. Fox tossed out the following figures from the annual crime report:

According to the State Crime Lab’s annual report, Montana saw a 375 percent increase in meth found in postmortem cases from 2011 to 2017. Over the same period, it experienced a 324 percent increase in meth found in DUI cases.

Figures related to other substance abuse issues have also seen a dramatic increase.

“This report confirms what we already knew – Montana is in the midst of a substance abuse crisis,” Fox said. “The astronomical increase in meth and heroin offenses have placed added strain on the crime lab, as well as on our courts, our jails, our foster care systems. Child abuse and neglect cases have gone through the roof.”

Yes, Tim, we know it’s bad. And many of us know it’s going to get worse because of the cuts. So what is the plan to address this crisis?

Saying the state can’t wait any longer to act, Fox and community stakeholders have gathered to explore state-based solutions aimed at policy. The issue zeroes in on both drugs and alcohol and looks at everything from treatment to early intervention, education and monitoring.

The resulting report was released last September and will serve as a blueprint moving forward, starting with the 2019 Legislature.

“It has helped us better identify how state resources are used to target substance abuse and identify gaps and inefficiencies,” Fox said. “We now have a more complete understanding of how our state can better align efforts to enhance the necessary communications and improve the outcomes for those suffering from addiction.”

While the Attorney General’s Office has partnered with other agencies including local government, the Department of Corrections and the Montana Health Care Foundation, Fox said government alone can’t solve the problem.

Rather, he said, it will require partnerships with the private sector and area nonprofits.

If you don’t know how to decipher political weasel speech, allow me to interpret: Government will keep up its punishing power to incarcerate, and for everything else, good luck nonprofits and the private sector.

Really, everything comes down to funding and how resources are allocated. Will law enforcement leverage this to get more resources? Will more law enforcement be effective if the jails are full? Is the County willing to give up the money it makes from the state by housing state inmates in the County clink?

Instead of these kinds of questions, one initial reaction from a City Council person, lone-wolf conservative Jesse Ramos, is to claim TIF funds intended to address blight created more blight by helping the new shelter get built:

It is worth noting that the Poverello Center was partially paid for using TIF funding. TIF funding is only allowed to be used, according to state law, for the purposes of eliminating blight. 

Last night I challenged my fellow council members and the mayor to find someone in the surrounding neighborhoods who thought their neighborhood was less blighted after the Poverello Center was opened.

It was great seeing so many folks come and voice their concerns last night as a collective community, thank you for taking the time to do so. I am with you all 100%. 19 concerned citizens testified last night who were affected by this problem, and that is POWERFUL.

We need to stand with the folks who no longer feel safe in their own homes and work to find a compassionate solution to this problem. No one should live in fear in their own neighborhood.

This is not lacking in compassion, this is showing compassion to the citizens who no longer feel safe in their own homes. We need to act.

What Jesse Ramos should do is ask the owners of Imagine Brewery, Tias Big Sky and Western Cider why they opened up businesses AFTER the Poverello Center relocated. I understand the need to be critical of the TIF candy MRA throws around to needy hotel developers and struggling art parks, but in this case a community resource this community VERY MUCH NEEDS was built with that assistance, and that is a good thing.

So, what’s next? Probably some placating stalling tactics from Engen, like meetings with stake holders blah blah blah, then the weather will turn cold and the problem will become less visible again. The Mayor and the Police Chief will say they will increase patrols in the area, and encourage anyone who sees something to call 911. And nothing much on the ground will change.

Eventually I think gentrification will transform this part of Missoula and these issues will move somewhere else. The exploitive owners of motels like the Colonial and the Sleepy Inn will cash in and something nicer will be built. You see, drug-fueled crime can actually be a great opportunity for developers, driving down prices to bargain levels.

I have heard developers like the Farran Groups are just biding their time.

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Crime, Transients, Drugs…Tonight At City Council

by William Skink

If you are a Westside resident of Missoula with an experience regarding the topics listed in the title, your presence is requested at City Council tonight. Here is the Facebook request a friend shared with me:

“PLEASE come testify to City Council about Crime/Transient/Drug concerns
I’m a longtime (27 year) resident of the West Side and am deeply disturbed to see what’s been happening in terms of transients/drugs/crime here. I am organizing a group of residents and business owners to testify at the City Council meeting on Aug. 13th about what has been happening here and to beg them for their help and attention to the situation. They are currently considering next year’s budget requests so we need to get to them now, and I believe it is important to show up in droves in a public forum to get the results we want. Talking points are simple: 1) Here’s what I’ve experienced 2) We need your help. No shaming/blaming or even offering solutions–we’re not trying to tell them how to do their jobs (I’m hoping we will get some creative solutions through an advisory group of stakeholders I’m also trying to spearhead). We just want them to know what we’re dealing with, and that if they don’t help us get a handle on it now we’re going to lose the neighborhood. Please let me know if you can make the meeting, which is at 7 pm on Aug. 13th. The public comment period is first, so you don’t have to sit through a bunch of other agenda items. Also, please pass this along to anyone else you think might come and speak. And if you can’t make it, you can always write a letter and have someone read it aloud so it is entered into the record. Thanks!”

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Is Systemic Child Abuse By Powerful People And Institutions Too Horrifying For The Public To Accept?

by William Skink

The widespread sexual abuse of children is not something people really want to know about. Pedophiles are too often depicted as lone pervs with scraggly mustaches and 80’s style glasses driving vans around looking for vulnerable kids to snatch.

While these types of monsters do exist, the real evil of child sexual abuse is that its systemic and more likely to include powerful and prominent members of a community than socially isolated perverts who can be locked away when caught.

The system of abuse can’t be locked away. It must be dismantled. But before that can happen people have to face up to how rampant sexual abuse is within the halls of power. And I’m not just talking about the Catholic church.

A decade old report detailing abuse by UN Officials should be common public knowledge, if protecting children was actually a priority for the corporate media storytellers who gate-keep the scope of abuse from emerging. Despite the recent move by UK’s parliament to release the full report, I suspect these gate-keepers will continue gate-keeping (go to the article for links):

A groundbreaking United Nations report compiled in 2002 never saw the full light of day, until now. The UK Parliament recently published the entire document, which details the sexual exploitation of refugee children by those distributing “humanitarian aid,” as well as peacekeepers and personnel in positions of power in crisis-affected areas.

The publication of a summary version of the report caused a global furor in 2002, eventually leading to some policy changes. However, these efforts have proven woefully insufficient in light of ongoing scandals, including but not limited to the recent Oxfam debacle, the Zoe’s Ark scandal, allegations of horrific sexual abuse in the Central African Republic by UN forces, and the Laura Silsby incident. All of these cases (and many others) occurred after the partial publication of the UNHCR report, pointing to one unsavory conclusion:

Aid work is not a vehicle of charity, but is, in a very real sense, a cover for atrocity. It is a weapon, a blunt instrument of power that is wielded to exploit the most vulnerable populations in crisis around the world. We can now state that sentiment as fact, not opinion.

If people understood the scope of what is happening to vulnerable minors across the globe, I think even the tribal identification of party politics would start losing cohesion. Donald Trump and Bill Clinton have billionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein in common, after all.

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In Defense Of The Union Gospel Mission

by William Skink

Earlier this month Dan Brooks directed the focus of his weekly column at Missoula’s Union Gospel Mission, piggybacking on Derek Brouwer’s earlier piece about a recent decision by UGM to discontinue providing lunchtime meals to their homeless clientele.

Brouwer’s piece first introduces us to Terri Wood, a Christian woman apparently more in line with the spirit of Christ because she is persisting in providing food, where UGM is not:

Wood sees Set Free as filling a gap in basic services for Missoula’s homeless, but UGM no longer shares the same philosophy. Executive Director Don Evans says the mission decided to discontinue its free meals program as part of an effort to “attack” what he describes as a “culture of entitlement” among some homeless people that he believes the service may have helped foster. UGM provided a small fraction of the meals served by the Poverello, but the mission’s more lenient policies attracted people who were too drunk or disruptive to eat at the Pov.

“If we limit those types of resources, then they’re going to think about their direction in life,” Evans says.

And here is Brooks piling on, quoting scripture to Christian-shame UGM’s decision:

The Jesus of the gospels fed everybody. That was one of his signature moves. The idea that helping people can make them lazy didn’t enter Christianity until a few generations later. “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat,” Paul the Apostle wrote in 2 Thessalonians 3:10. It should be noted that Paul was not one of the original 12 disciples. He uses “we,” though, to imply that his words were those of Jesus, too.

Maybe the Union Gospel Mission should change its name to the Union Pauline Epistle Mission. Paul’s position on feeding those who don’t work is more popular today, among Christians and secular authorities alike. It is an article of faith among conservatives and even moderate liberals that giving things to people who can’t pay makes them feel “entitled.”

Here’s an idea: Maybe people are entitled to food. I’m not just talking about people who would like to work but can’t find jobs, either. I mean the drunks, the malingerers, the able-bodied jerks who won’t contribute and think we’re suckers for making them sandwiches. These people should not starve to death on our watch, because whether they eat is not a measure of their characters. It’s a measure of ours.

The big problem I have here with this tag-team criticism of UGM’s decision is that the narrow focus on the loaded term “entitlement” used by Evans frames this as an ideological issue instead of a practical one. And I get it. A Christian organization criticizing itself for creating a culture of entitlement is too ripe for a weekly like the Indy not to pick up on, but it’s definitely not the whole story.

To understand the practical necessity of doing something different one would first have to understand what is not working. I think it is very difficult for anyone without direct experience serving the clientele UGM has served for years to understand this. My personal opinion is UGM is putting their own volunteers and staff at risk by serving who they are serving in their current space.

Entitlement to someone without direct experience is an abstraction to be discussed in theological or philosophical terms. Entitlement to someone like Don Evans could be having a sandwich thrown at you by a serial inebriate because it’s peanut butter and jelly instead of egg salad.

UGM is doing very difficult work with clients even the Poverello Center can’t safely serve. And UGM is not alone in acknowledging they can’t keep doing what they have been doing in the way they have been doing it. It was reported just this week that the Pov is also making some changes to how many they can safely serve:

The Poverello Center announced a new cap on the number of overnight residents it will accept, citing safety issues.

The nonprofit released the announcement Tuesday, saying that as of Aug. 6, the overnight shelter census will be limited to 150 residents. The shelter will allow up to 175 people during cold winter months.

Amy Allison Thompson, Poverello executive director, says the cap is a difficult choice, made with the input of staff and clients.

In a statement, she said:

“We are working hard every day with folks to try to get them permanently housed through the Missoula Coordinated Entry System. Sleeping numbers beyond the capacity of our staff and building puts everyone’s safety at risk and makes it much harder for us to achieve our ultimate goal, which is finding permanent, stable housing for those of us who are most vulnerable.”

I think both the Poverello Center and Union Gospel Mission have had to get more realistic about what they can and can’t do with the resources they have, or don’t have. It is not the responsibility of either organization to solve complex issues fueling chronic homelessness, like mental illness and addiction. These are community problems that require community solutions.

I hope more attention gets directed toward why our community continues to fail to close gaps in services for chronically homeless individuals. I also hope UGM and other service providers get the credit they deserve for doing what they can in the face of dwindling resources and increasing need.

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Alex Jones, Julian Assange And “Vichy Journalism”

by William Skink

Anyone who celebrated the news that Alex Jones was de-platformed by tech giants is a short-sighted fool cheering on a tech-censoring spree that will have serious chilling effects on free speech.

There are still a few independent-minded people capable of understanding the potential implications, and James Conner at Flathead Memo is one of those people. Conner says it best when he writes:

Suppression is a confession that the suppressed speech is more powerful than the rebuttal to it.

Martyring Alex Jones will not expunge his paranoid world view, it will do the opposite. Supporters of Info Wars will see this as confirmation of the potency of Jones’ truth telling. Nothing positive was achieved by this move.

When it comes to targets for suppression of speech Alex Jones is just an appetizer. The main course is Julian Assange. At Consortium News John Pilger excoriates media on Assange silence:

Nothing in my time as a journalist has equaled the rise of WikiLeaks and its extraordinary impact on journalism. It is probably the only journalistic organization that has a 100% record of accuracy and authenticity! All of WikiLeaks’ revelations have been authentic. And it has been done “without fear or favor.” Although there has been a concentration on, say, the release of the Hillary Clinton/Podesta emails, or the Iraq and Afghan war logs, WikiLeaks has released information that people have a right to know across the spectrum. It has released something like 800,000 documents from Russia, and now WikiLeaks is accused of being an agent of Russia!

All the reporters and journalists freaking out over every Trump taunt deserve to be referred to as enemies of the American people if they continue to remain silent on Assange. Will they defend the 1st Amendment or will they continue to be stenographers for government power? Especially despicable are the media giants that accepted Pulitzers for stories enabled by Wikileaks, but ignore his increasingly dire plight as Ecuador gets ready to throw Assange to the wolves.

Here is more from Pilger:

I was looking this morning at a report by Media Lens in Britain describing how the British press has reported on Julian Assange. It describes the tsunami of vindictive personal abuse that has been heaped upon Julian from well-known journalists, many claiming liberal credentials. The Guardian, which used to consider itself the most enlightened newspaper in the country, has probably been the worst. The frontal attacks have been coming not from governments but from journalists. I described this recently as “Vichy journalism,” a term which now fits so much of the mainstream media. It collaborates in the same way that the Vichy government in France collaborated with the Nazis.

There used to be spaces within the so-called mainstream for unbiased discussion, for the airing of real grievances and injustices. These spaces have closed completely. The attacks on Julian Assange illustrate what has happened to the so-called free media in the West. I have been a journalist for a very long time and I have always worked within the mainstream, but the journalism I see now is part of a rapacious establishment and one of its prime targets is Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. This is precisely because WikiLeaks is producing the kind of journalism that they ought to be doing. WikiLeaks has in fact shamed journalists, which might help to explain the deeply personal abuse he has suffered. WikiLeaks has revealed what journalists should have revealed a long time ago.

Amen, John.

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Typical Weekend In Downtown Missoula?

by William Skink

I admit it, I checked out the comments on Missoulian articles all the time. Before they stopped allowing them, every article about homelessness would have a few people referencing whatever had happened, saying that’s why they don’t go downtown anymore. I’m sure walter12 was one of them.

I’m going to try and not sound like one of those commenters.

I was downtown enjoying First Friday this weekend when an altercation occurred that resulted in me dialing 911. Luckily my family wasn’t with me when a rough looking 50 year old dude on a bike hit me from behind as I was standing on the sidewalk. I wasn’t injured, but I called out the dude for hitting me. At first the guy denied it, then quickly started getting aggressive. I told him to walk away, but he came after me instead, so I called 911.

I’m not sure if the guy was drunk or not, or if he was homeless or not. After talking to a few police officers, I went back to where I had been hit. I talked to an old client drinking openly by the Palace Apartments who had seen the guy come after me, and he said he thinks he’s camped out in one of the parking garages.

The next day, Saturday, again downtown, I witnessed a very obviously intoxicated white male just walk into traffic at Broadway and Higgins. After multiple cars blasted their horns at him, he made it to the other side and plopped down next to a few other street people.

I mentioned my experiences at work today and a co-worker mentioned a Facebook post from the co-owner of Curves, located on West Broadway. She was complaining about finding more and more needles and trash, and even took pictures. Someone told her that homelessness downtown is going to be on the City Council agenda next Monday.

I’m sure it will be.

This time of year gets especially antagonistic because actual transients (as opposed to year-round homeless residents of our fair city) do start blowing through at greater frequency. I’ve noticed more gutter-punk types starting to show up recently, and they can cause all kinds of hell for everyone. The summer of 2013 stands out as particularly bad for that element.

Will I stop going downtown? No. I won’t keep my family from enjoying the good parts downtown Missoula has to offer. But I won’t hesitate to cross the street or call 911 if I see someone I think is too drunk or mentally unstable to expose my kids to.

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Missoula Rises And Julie Merritt Get Called Out For Conspiring Against Local Business Woman

by William Skink

UPDATE: Julie Merritt referred to a different contractor as a POS, not Dee Saale. Thank you to the reporter who pointed out my mistake.

An interesting spat has emerged from a closed conversation not intended for public scrutiny. Just the fact this conversation was happening on a closed Facebook group is a bit ironic, considering the group is Missoula Rises. I guess there are limits to being inclusive.

If you’re not familiar with Missoula Rises, check out their vision statement:

Missoula Rises is a community-led, local group committed to the protection of the rights of our community members. Our group serves Missoula, the Bitterroot Valley and surrounding areas. We seek to effectuate local change with the intent that our local work will eventually have an impact on a larger scale. We are non-partisan and inclusive. Diversity is key. We seek input from all people and understand the success of our message depends on the diversity of voices. Missoula Rises will further the protection of human rights through: education, dialogue, vigilance, accountability and activism.

Is free speech a right Missoula Rises supports? Are they actually inclusive of people with different opinions, or who do things they don’t approve of, like criticize the government of Missoula? The recent spat would indicate that on both accounts the answer is no.

So what’s the big controversy? Apparently a woman who has a construction business and does business with the city of Missoula has been critical of taxes and government spending.  Nothing specific is mentioned that would get a woman like Roseanne fired or a woman like New York Times editor Sarah Jeong hired, so I don’t know what has this Facebook group “founded in love” all riled up, but I do know things got much more interesting when Julie Merritt entered the fray, calling the business woman in question a piece of shit (she used the more civil acronym POS) before offering to look into how to financially retaliate from her official city council position.

Here is how NBC reported it:

It’s a busy season for concrete company owner Deanne Saale. She’ll tell you she has a lot invested in Missoula and is outspoken about city taxes and spending on social media.

“I voice my opinion a lot about taxes and the freedoms we’ve lost in this city,” Saale said.

Saale didn’t think it could jeopardize her company until she says an acquaintance sent her a screenshot from a Missoula Facebook group. It’s called Missoula Rises. It’s described as a closed group with roughly 3,500 members. We joined it to confirm the comments for ourselves.

Here’s what we found in the comments.

One member calls Saale cruel and asks if the city can “be encouraged” to not hire her or another contractor. She writes Saale spews “hatred”.

Missoula City Council Member Julie Merritt responds. She calls the other contractor a “POS” and then writes she’ll look into an approach to limit their contracts.

So, this is how a pro-diversity group that spews idealistic rhetoric about inclusion responds to someone they don’t agree with? They act like mean girls behind her back, calling her names, then attempt to find a way to financially penalize her? Wow.

I wonder what other methods Missoula Rises can think up to combat “hate”, how about an ideological purity test for anyone contracting with the city of Missoula in order to exclude any business that doesn’t adhere to the values of diversity and inclusion?

As absurdly contradictory as that sentence sounds, isn’t that what Missoula Rises is advocating for?

After being called out for her willingness to punish an ideological foe by withholding city business contracts, Julie Merritt had the audacity to first criticize the sharing of her comments from a closed group, then referenced her right to free speech:

We asked Merritt to tell us her side of the story. She won’t go on camera but wrote us in an email that sharing the screen grabs violated the spirit of the Missoula Rises group. Then she writes she’s found out it doesn’t matter what an owner of employee says about the city, its staff or elected officials, the contract goes to the “responsive low bidder.”

She ends her email by writing it’s free speech and people, including her, can say what they want.

What a load of crap. Julie Merritt was willing to explore how to use her elected position to financially punish someone for criticizing city government. That is absolutely not respecting someone else’s right to free speech. To then use free speech to defend herself is offensively hypocritical.

I wonder if any of the 3,500 members of this closed Facebook group appreciates what Merritt was trying to do. I would love to hear someone explain to me how Merritt’s intent is any different than the baker who refuses to do business with people who are gay because they don’t agree gay people should be able to get married.

Missoula Rises is Associated with the Montana Human Rights Network, so I sent MHRN an email requesting this group receive a tutorial on free speech and representative government. I truly hope they get the help they need.

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What Will Happen With Missoula’s Chronic Homeless Population When It Gets Cold?

by William Skink

Next spring the largest affordable housing project in Montana history will break ground. While that’s a good thing, no one should be patting themselves on the back too vigorously. This project is not for the most chronic (and most expensive) homeless individuals who are still bouncing from hospital to jail to the street. No, it’s for people making between $28,000-$42,000 dollars:

Roughly 175 units will be reserved for those who earn 60 percent of the area median income, or $42,000 for a family of four. Another 24 units will go to those who earn 40 percent of Missoula’s median income, or $28,160 for a family of four.

While this socio-economic group needs help in Missoula—a town now ranking 33rd in income inequality (surpassing Boulder, Colorado)—the group most at risk of literally dying from lack of housing will face another cold Montana winter with the same gaps we, as a community, have been talking about fixing for a decade.

The Union Gospel Mission has been trying to help address the gaps in services for Missoula’s chronically homeless, often serially inebriated residents, but those efforts have hit barrier after barrier.

After the Poverello Center raised the alarm last February about how overcrowded it’s shelter had become-and that’s with a policy of requiring sobriety to enter the shelter—UGM and the Salvation Army stepped up:

“The Pov had already approached the Salvation Army about using overflow in their location,” said Evans. “There had been some prep work with the Salvation Army and so it was easy for us to come in and work with them. They were great in getting things repurposed for us.”

With the arrangements in place, the Union Gospel Mission moved its operations from its Toole Avenue warming house to the Salvation Army so it could house more people. The warming house can sleep a handful of residents per night in tight confines, while the Mission slept 30 at the Salvation Army.

The Pov capped its capacity at 190, and with this winter serving as a test, the Union Gospel Mission is already looking to next winter, ready to help if the numbers swell again.

“I could see us doing that again, but I haven’t asked for permission,” Evans said. “We’d think, logically, it could be done again. We want to help address the homeless issue all the way down to the epidemic of camping and sleeping in your own vehicle. We want to help the city save money with police being used to serve and protect and not have to spend time knocking on car windows.”

From what I have heard, this effort was shut down by Missoula’s Fire Chief. I haven’t seen this reported by local media yet, but at some point I suspect that will change. Will it be before the next homeless person dies on the street in Missoula?

The city of Missoula didn’t just shut down UGM’s efforts at the Salvation Army. Last May, the city also shut down the parking lot by the UGM day center:

Don Evans, executive director of the Union Gospel Mission shelter next to the parking lot, said many of the people weren’t necessarily sleeping in their cars, and that many used the mission.

The shelter would routinely warn people about the ordinances about sleeping on the street, and Evans said many would move their vehicles frequently to stay in compliance.

Now he’s wondering where the group that was moved out will end up next. Without options, most are likely to end up living in the vehicles some other place in town.

It’s an issue, especially for a city that frequently cites homelessness among its top priorities and is six years into a 10-year plan to whose stated goal is to “end homelessness.”

“Where are people going to go? It’s something I’ve told people in meetings throughout my time here,” Evans said.

Yes, where are people going to go? One of the many homeless camps that dot our gentrified landscape? There’s the Reserve Street camps, but also camps down the Kim Williams trail, along the river by the Buckhouse bridge, along Grant Creek behind the hotels, in the woods out at Bonner, along the Clark Fork by the California Street bridge and many other nooks and crannies.

It might be blazing hot now, but cold weather is not that far away and there doesn’t seem to be any significant planning for what to do with the segment of the homeless population that can’t access the Poverello Center. Instead of raising awareness and leading efforts to address this, the city appears more busy shutting things down.

How many more people need to die before our city leaders prioritize WITH ACTION the costly and cruel plight of chronically homeless individuals in Missoula? And by action I don’t mean creating a new city initiative or funding another study. I mean ensuring the full spectrum of housing is available to address the full spectrum of need.

If this isn’t possible then city leaders should be up front about it. They should explain to those suffering on the streets that we, as a community, have other priorities, like helping refugees and regulating gun sales and building play waves and creating art parks and giving financial hand-outs to those poor developers having such a hard time right now.

For a town that considers itself such a progressive, forward-thinking community, the fact people are still dying on our streets is beyond shameful.

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Russia, Russia, Russia

by William Skink

Russia is to blame. People need to understand that. They are to blame for all of it. And they’re doing it again. I call on artists to make a stand. Create art to stop the evil bear from strangling the noble eagle.

The fire consuming the forest? Ignore it. Russia is the fire and that fire is what will destroy us and our god-fearing nation. We must stop Russia. That is why, with my art, I am invoking Saint Reagan.

Quick, artists, before it’s too late!!!

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