Monday, March 20, 2023

Letters to the editor Feb. 5

| February 5, 2023 12:00 AM

Dispelling misconceptions

I’ve been a resident of this valley for 25 years and a volunteer and/or board member at Samaritan House for the last 19.

The county commissioners’ unsupported theory that more local services have created an expanded and enabled homeless population doesn’t address the far more likely factors of skyrocketing housing costs, a ballooning general population, short-term vacation rentals replacing long-term rental units, inadequate mental health services, and maxed out addiction counseling and treatment services.

The commissioners stated that some folks choose to live “unmoored” on the street, yet their “solution” of de-funding the shelters and withholding permits for shelter expansions seeks to punish the very people who do not choose that lifestyle.

Samaritan House, the Warming Center and other nonprofit organizations in our valley understand that homelessness is complicated, which is why a one-size-fits-all approach to the issue will never work. The taxpayer funded commissioner salaries of nearly $80,000/year make you much more immune to the effects of inflation, high-cost housing and other factors. If the street folks in Depot Park are breaking laws, then that would be an issue for law enforcement. If law enforcement doesn’t have the resources to deal with the matter, or other issues arising from an increasing population, then please allocate those resources to them.

Fourteen years into volunteering at Samaritan House, I found myself in the previously unimaginable situation of needing to stay there myself. My several week stay at the shelter was an overwhelmingly positive experience during an extremely stressful period of my life. I didn’t broadcast my situation to others, but neither was I ashamed of it. I’ll be forever grateful for the support system that was already in place.

It’s easy to perpetuate misconceptions but much more difficult to dispel them.

— Heidi Long, Kalispell

Protect Kalispell from becoming Seattle

Habitat for Humanity should be part of the homeless solutions. Christian-based “hand up” versus “hand out” model that is proven successful.

Habitat’s homebuyers invest hundreds of hours of sweat equity, collaborating with volunteers and Habitat homeowners. Once built they pay an affordable mortgage and receive financial education.

Here’s a comment from our nephew Tony who lives in homeless friendly Seattle, but grew up in Kalispell:

If you build it, they will come. More facilities, more compassion shown, more food and shelter given — more people come with hands out.

Taxpayers are weary seeing their neighborhoods full of crime, drugs and human feces.

Business owners leave due to crime/theft especially retail stores. Employees don’t feel safe, and they will quit. Violent crimes go up and loyal customers go elsewhere.

Housing suffers. Who wants to live where Amazon packages go missing every day? Or the smell of drugs/marijuana is constant? Or missing catalytic converters from underneath cars?

Your vacated house become a homeless shelter - stripped of copper wiring or anything that can be removed and sold.

City parks become tent communities full of needles, feces, stolen cars - places police hesitate to enter.

“Be compassionate and remember they are human” is not a solution, just a blind call to make people feel bad who want to protect their community and family and feel shame by doing it.

I believe enabling drug use and homelessness is not compassionate, but the exact opposite. Help should be the “hand up” building self-sufficiency as the goal — not dependency. I hope Kalispell does not become Seattle who bought into a false compassion. Let’s NOT ruin neighborhoods, drive out businesses or ruin the local parks that generations of people have gone to.

I pray all will decide on what the Lord would have us do to help.

— Mike McKnight, Kalispell

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