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DATE 2023-09-01

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MESSAGE
DATE 2023-09-02
FROM Ruben Safir
SUBJECT Subject: [Hangout - NYLXS] Losing control
A Montana Town Faces a Homelessness Problem Similar to San Francisco and
L.A.
Missoula’s parks are full of people in tents. Moving them is hampered by
a court ruling that has frustrated many leaders in the American West.
Increasing numbers of homeless people pitch tents in Missoula, Mont.,
parks, frustrating town leaders and many local residents.
Increasing numbers of homeless people pitch tents in Missoula, Mont.,
parks, frustrating town leaders and many local residents.
By Jim CarltonFollow
| Photographs by Ami Vitale for The Wall Street Journal
Sept. 2, 2023 9:00 am ET

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MISSOULA, Mont.—This city boasts more than 400 acres of parks, many of
which line the roaring Clark Fork River. Recently, they have become full
of homeless people.

Some 600 people without homes live in the Northern Rockies college town,
triple the number of a decade ago, many of them in tents in city parks.
Their presence has sown growing anger among residents who say the parks
have become dirty and unsafe.

Shannone Hart said a group of teens she works with saw homeless people
fighting in a park and that she moved in June from a house near an
encampment along the Clark Fork.

“Just the sheer litter and feces and garbage pollution that was going
into the river was concerning,” Hart said.

Missoula has a law against camping in a park but can’t enforce it
because of a 2018 ruling by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals,
which prevents officials from removing anyone camping in a public space
in its Western U.S. jurisdiction unless there is a shelter for them to
move to. Missoula has less than half the beds that would be necessary to
comply with the order, most of which are already being used.


Silver Park sits on the bank of the Clark Fork River in Missoula.
The ruling has frustrated leaders of major cities across the West,
including Portland, Ore., San Francisco and Los Angeles, where homeless
encampments have proliferated in parks. Democratic California Gov. Gavin
Newsom criticized the order in an interview Tuesday with the San
Francisco Chronicle, calling it “preposterous” and “inhumane.”

The struggles of Missoula, population 78,000, show that the ruling also
is affecting smaller cities, which also are coping with increased street
homelessness driven by rising housing costs.

The average monthly cost of a one-bedroom apartment in Missoula is
$1,195, up 50% from 2019, according to rental listings platform Zumper.
Nationwide, the increase was 21%.

ADVERTISEMENT

“All of a sudden people can’t afford it and they’re out,” said Chris
Sage, who coordinates homelessness data in Montana for a nonprofit
group. Homelessness has grown 62% in the state since 2019.

Missoula had 60 homeless encampments in parks as of late August,
according to a city report. To address the problem without running afoul
of the Ninth Circuit, the City Council passed an emergency ordinance in
June making it easier to remove encampments from parks used by youth
camps and other groups.

“We don’t want to lose control of the parks,” Missoula Mayor Jordan Hess
said. Trees have been cut down and irrigation systems destroyed by
homeless people, the Democrat said, and earlier this year, city workers
removed about 100 pounds of rotting bacon from an encampment.

Since the ordinance went into effect, city crews have removed between
eight and 10 of the most problematic homeless camps, but many of the
people living in them have moved on to other parks, Hess said.


Jordan Hess, mayor of Missoula, says some homeless people have damaged
the public parks where they are staying.
At a July meeting to make the emergency ordinance permanent, the measure
was postponed amid complaints from homeless advocates that vulnerable
people would suffer.

Jill Bonny, executive director of the Poverello Center, a homeless
shelter with 135 beds, said the city should add a second permanent
shelter and designate outdoor space for homeless camping. “When they
don’t have a place to go, a park has grass, it has bathrooms, it has
garbage cans and it has shade,” she said.

Hess said many in Missoula, a liberal college town in a heavily
Republican state, are sensitive to such arguments and want to find a
compromise.

ADVERTISEMENT


Jill Bonny, of the Poverello Center homeless shelter, says Missoula
needs to open more shelter space for people without homes.
The council by November hopes to pass a revised permanent ordinance that
would restrict camping in places such as near waterways and give park
managers tools to enforce rules on vandalism and littering. Later this
month, Missoula is set to open the doors of a 165-bed shelter typically
used only in the winter, to provide more space on a temporary basis.

But Hess said the city, which has allocated $2.5 million this fiscal
year for homeless services in a $175 million municipal budget, needs
state and federal help to solve the problem. “Everything we are going to
do is triage,” he said, “and everything we do is going to be inadequate.”

Unlike the large encampments that have proliferated in some West Coast
cities, Missoula’s homeless people largely live in small groups of tents
tucked beneath trees.





https://www.wsj.com/business/hospitality/a-montana-town-faces-a-homelessness-problem-similar-to-san-francisco-and-l-a-eba26824


Michael Lightcap, a disabled carpenter, is among more than 600 homeless
people in Missoula, many of whom live in public parks.
AMI VITALE FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
Michael Lightcap, 63 years old, said he had been camping in a Missoula
park since authorities confiscated his RV a year ago. A disabled
carpenter, he said he can’t afford housing on his $800 monthly Social
Security check, but doesn’t mind the outdoors lifestyle.

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS
What steps should Missoula take to address homelessness? Join the
conversation below.

“It’s no big deal,” he said while walking past children in a park, where
his tent was pitched overlooking the Clark Fork River. “You just get a
little propane when it gets cold.”

Vickie Reynolds, a local nanny, said she avoids taking children to most
parks now. “When they are new to walking, besides staying close to them,
you have to be more aware of what’s ON the ground,” she wrote in a text
message.

Mike Helmick said he returned in February to his hometown of Missoula
after losing his job in Michigan. With no income besides food stamps, he
ended up living in a tent with his wife, Jennifer.

“It’s very hard, no one tells you where to go for resources,” said
Helmick, 26, as the couple sat in the shade and watched people bicycle past.

Helmick said he keeps his camp clean and recently chased off someone he
saw trying to scale the fence of a nearby bicycle shop. “That’s what
makes us homeless people look bad,” he said.


Mike Hemlick, who is originally from Missoula, returned to the city
earlier this year after losing his job in Michigan.
Write to Jim Carlton at Jim.Carlton-at-wsj.com
--
So many immigrant groups have swept through our town
that Brooklyn, like Atlantis, reaches mythological
proportions in the mind of the world - RI Safir 1998
http://www.mrbrklyn.com
DRM is THEFT - We are the STAKEHOLDERS - RI Safir 2002

http://www.nylxs.com - Leadership Development in Free Software
http://www.brooklyn-living.com

Being so tracked is for FARM ANIMALS and extermination camps,
but incompatible with living as a free human being. -RI Safir 2013
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