Missoula’s Big Problem

Missoula is a wonderful city and for the most part I love it. However, there are two things that I dislike about living here. Number one is the cold and snowy winters that run for about 9.5 months of the year. Number two is the transient problem.

My mom, dad, and brother visited me last weekend. As usual they had rave reviews for the Garden City. They loved the farmer’s market, the casinos, the great places to eat, the beautiful church I go to, and the overall culture of the town. But this time they slipped in a critique, a critique that I happen to share with them, a critique that didn’t have to do with the weather as it was in the low nineties the whole time they were here.

My family couldn’t believe how much the transient population had exploded.

After getting hassled by people on the street all Friday night and all day Saturday, my family went public with their realization to me with a culminating event on Saturday evening. As we were walking down Ryman on one side of the street we couldn’t help but turn our heads and watch as an argument was escalating on the sidewalk opposite to us on the other side of the street. Starting at where the Badlander sits, a transient woman started getting yelled at by a transient man. She screamed back. Soon enough another transient man jumped into the controversy and started yelling at the woman as well. Pretty much the only words that we could make out during the argument were the four letter ones. As we walked down one side of the street, the enraged people mirrored our progress walking down the other side of the street even though none of them were wearing shoes. The Jerry Springer On The Street episode ended when we turned right onto Front St. and the transients kept going down Ryman.

This led to my parents expressing that they didn’t remember the street person problem being so bad in Missoula. Of course they were aware that the city had a pretty prevalent homeless population before but this time around the problem had grown considerably. I explained to them about the Rainbow Gathering that took place nearby and I reminded them that it was summer but those were the only excuses I gave. I had to hang my head low and concede that they were right, transients had taken over downtown Missoula.

I am definitely not here to condemn the city of Missoula. I mean what more can they do? There are just so many street people it is hard to control. I think if there is a main reason on why the problem is so bad I would say it is because Missoulians are just too nice. Say what? Am I really complaining about the people in this city being too nice? Well, not really. I would always take a city that was too nice over a city that was mean. The overall impact of a nice town makes the quality of life so much better as opposed to a mean one. BUT, a nice town does have some undesirable drawbacks and aiding a transient population is one of them. Missoulians give street people money, food, sympathy, and attention. While I am not advocating acting like a Scrooge to someone in need, I am saying that “helping” a street person many times just enables them to buy booze, get high, pollute the streets, and feel content about their less than aspiring status

The worst thing about Missoula’s transient problem? At this time we are inundated with a mixed population. Missoula does not just have your typical older homeless man walking around with a big beard and alcohol on his breath. Rather, we have a large group of young people who are living on the streets. As I said earlier, the Rainbow Gathering has something to do with this but I find it both sad and pathetic how many people my age and younger are calling the Missoula streets their home. I can’t walk anywhere in downtown Missoula without them blocking my pathway with their dog, asking for “three quarters”, and/or assaulting my nose with the combination of alcohol, pot, and B.O. They hang out in packs and can be intimidating to some people.

I hope within a couple months this Missoula problem dissipates quite a bit. It is becoming a characteristic of this town, something that out-of-towners can easily notice. Missoula is a wonderful place, it is just that some of its charm and beauty is taken away when you can’t walk ten feet without noticing the presence of the street population. Let’s hope time and some better practices from Missoulians can help make this issue more manageable. Don’t Blink.

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