Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Commissioners’ letter shows callous indifference

| March 1, 2023 1:00 AM

[Whitefish City Council sent this letter to the Flathead County Commission in response to the commission’s letter issued on Jan. 19 that blamed homeless services organizations and charities for the increase in homelessness in the Flathead Valley.]

In a letter to Flathead County residents, the Flathead County Commissioners called upon their “peers serving on city councils” to join them in their battle cry against the homeless population in Kalispell. This letter answers that call.

We can agree with the commissioners on several fronts. Hard conversations do solve hard problems. Providing homeless infrastructure and services may indeed attract more homeless individuals in the Flathead Valley to Kalispell. Some individuals may very well make a conscious decision to live an unmoored life.

What we cannot agree with is the commissioners’ callous indifference to the plight of homelessness. It is both misguided and irresponsible to paint a picture of the homeless population in Flathead County or anywhere for that matter as well-networked drifters taking advantage of the community. Homelessness is rarely, if ever, a choice. It is a symptom of a bigger problem, be it addiction, mental illness, access to healthcare, family situations, or the significant lack of affordable housing. It is a problem that should be approached with empathy, common decency, and an honest desire to help treat its roots. We also find the misrepresentation of the comments from our police chief that were used for your position on homelessness unacceptable.

The rumors that the Whitefish is sending homeless people to Kalispell is just that, a rumor and must be dispelled. The Whitefish Police Department assists people in need on an individual basis, referring them to local Whitefish resources. Some individuals may need resources unavailable in our community so they in turn look to services provided in neighboring communities, like Kalispell. However, we are not providing transportation to Kalispell as alleged.

We invite the commissioners to join us to help create solutions to homelessness that serve our cities as well as some of our most vulnerable individuals.

Whitefish Mayor John M. Muhlfeld and City Councilors Frank Sweeney, Andy Feury, Rebecca Norton, Ben Davis, Steve Qunell and Giuseppe Caltabiano.

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