As in previous depressions, tent cities are springing up in many cities and towns as more people lose their jobs and homes. Where in Missoula will they live? The tell-tale smoke plumes along the Kim Williams trail all winter would tend to indicate some residents in the pines.
Maybe we will soon see Fort Missoula with temporary housing for the homeless, hopefully inside the buildings and not out in the weather. I don’t mean the refurbished buildings used for a range of non-profits, government agencies, and hospice. Rather, there are many old structures that are used for little other than storing equipment, archives, and old vehicles and while they wouldn’t make glamorous housing they would be out of the wind, sun, and rain. All it would take is a bit of forethought by our governing elders. After all, many of those buildings are owned by the Federal government, the State National Guard, the university, and various agricultural research agencies. In dire times wouldn’t the highest and best use be to take care of the most vulnerable, the homeless?
Or they could use some of the Federal Stimulus dollars for projects like the Garden District, a $6.6 million project of affordable homes off Russell Street, on the old Intermountain Lumber site. These rental units are targeted at:
people who earn less than 40 percent, 50 percent and 60 percent of the area median income. The Missoula Housing Authority’s Jim McGrath said a market study showed Missoula needs some 478 units in that range. “There’s a significant number of folks out there that are in that bracket,” McGrath said.
I suspect there are many more than that. Its going to take a concerted local effort to help those people and there’s no time like the present to get going on that project. What about it Mayor Engen, Governor Schweitzer and County Commissioners Carey, Curtiss, and Landquist? Do you want to be pro-active and get serious now about the homeless problem, or will you be reactive as the tent cities get more and more numerous? Will you help?