Reality Check

There But for the Grace of God Go the Commissioners

The problem of homelessness is not easily addressed but cruelty and eradicating charity are not the answers

By Tammi Fisher

Most of us that don’t suffer the plight of economic or housing insecurity breathe a sigh of relief and say a prayer of gratitude for the nonprofit shelters and support services in our communities that provide a safety net for those in need. Sadly, there are still some who live with us in “God’s Country” yet shun his teachings. Ironically, those who condemn the less fortunate sit in cushy political positions where their next paycheck is never at risk as it’s funded by you and me.  

The County Administrator reports the Flathead County commissioners are “not working on solutions to address homelessness in the valley,” yet, curiously, the commissioners have found the time to condemn those who are. In an errantly dated letter to the public, the commissioners have chosen to scold us for “enabling” the homeless population to proliferate and encourage us to stop helping “them.”  All of “them.” Because, according to the commissioners who anointed themselves as experts on the issue, a portion of the homeless population takes advantage of charity and the only solution is to shun all within this economic category.  

This means we must shun the efforts of Sparrows Nest and leave homeless kids out in the cold. We must also shun the young widows who live in their cars and who utilize the Heart Locker for school, clothing and hygiene supplies for their children. The mentally infirm who lost their community treatment due to the 2018 state budget showdown? They get to wander the streets hungry, cold and without support. The Warming Center that has prevented folks from freezing to death should just watch folks die in the streets. And, apparently, the longest serving homeless shelters – Samaritan House, Ray of Hope, and our churches – have been doing it wrong all along, according to the commissioners. 

None of these places and services are funded by Flathead County tax dollars, so the commissioners’ complaints ring hollow save for their illogical cruelty. In every barrel of apples you find a few rotten. Instead of addressing the rot the commissioners’ grand solution is to eliminate apples. The problem of homelessness is not easily addressed but cruelty and eradicating charity aren’t the answers. No doubt, thanks to you and me, the commissioners sleep well and warm at night with full tummies, so they can wake bright eyed and bushy tailed to rail against those less fortunate with cruel generalizations and no credible solutions. Their latest missive is further proof that the commissioners are unqualified to lead this county. As Ben Long put it: no matter how cold a winter night is in Flathead County, rest assured it’s not as cold as the hearts of the Flathead County commissioners.

Tammi Fisher is an attorney, former mayor of Kalispell and host of the Montana Values Podcast.