Wednesday, February 08, 2023

Hate over compassion better serves unhoused in Flathead

| January 25, 2023 1:00 AM

Recently the Flathead County Commissioners penned a letter to the public condemning homelessness and in particular the City of Kalispell’s handling of homeless services. They have essentially adopted a Field of Dreams mentality of “if you build it they will come” believing that if you provide services to the unhoused you’ll be overrun by neighbors in search of such services. As a former public policy analyst for the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless I can guarantee you this is a false relationship and a partisan proclamation not an informed statement based upon research.

Locally and nationally, the leading causes of homelessness are a lack of affordable housing, a lack of health care, unemployment/low wages and of course addiction, mental health and trauma struggles. For women and children violence and divorce are too often the leading causes. All of these causal factors are rooted in bad public policy and unsympathetic elected officials like our Commissioners who have demonstrated NO leadership in housing, health care, balanced job growth, living wages or preventive services like counseling and in patient care. In fact, their love affair with short-term rentals has worsened the problem.

If supportive services were the cause of homelessness, then states like Colorado, Georgia, Oregon, New York, California, North Dakota and Idaho would be overrun because in 2020 they were rated by the National Alliance to End Homelessness and the US Interagency Council on Homelessness as among the best in offering homelessness assistance programs (while Montana joined West Virginia, Arkansas and Oklahoma as among the worst).

But then, this letter has little to do with a community challenge like our unhoused neighbors. It is clearly a partisan manifesto the likes of which Marjorie Taylor Greene, Paul Gosar and our own Matt Rosendale and Annie Bukacek would be proud. Here’s what happens when hate comes to town.

Pat Malone, Columbia Falls

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