Housing crisis and unsheltered discussion series draws large crowd

Rough Sleepers
Posted at 5:39 PM, Aug 30, 2023

HELENA — The Housing Crisis is a hot topic issue here in Montana. On Wednesday, it was standing room only at the Lewis and Clark Library for the first in a series of discussions about homelessness and the housing crisis.

“We care about our community, we care about our neighbors, and that includes our unsheltered neighbors. So we're just trying to see, you know, what we can find out by discussing the topic and see if we can find some solutions to help them,” said Pastor Charles Wei with Plymouth Church.

Plymouth Church in partnership with the Lewis and Clark Library, United Way, the Montana Jewish Project, Good Samaritan and the Helena United Methodist Churches, invites the public to participate in the reading and five-week discussion of “Rough Sleepers” by Pulitzer-prize-winning author, Tracy Kidder. The book recounts the true story of Dr. Jim O'Connell caring for the unsheltered in Boston.

Helena unsheltered discussion

The discussions are open to everyone, even if they haven’t read the book, and will focus on housing shortages, education, medical care, substance abuse and more.

“I think education is just critical in getting to have an understanding of what's going on,” explained Jennifer Jeffries Thompson, chair of the Plymouth Church's Outreach and Social Justice Committee who is coordinating the project.

On Wednesday, Dr. Pat Christian with Carroll College spoke on the Historical Origins of the Housing Crisis and how public policy and political rhetoric have played a key role in modern issues. Issues Christian says can be addressed.

“These are issues that actually could be dealt with right here with certain policy changes. I would love to see attitude change as well,” said Christian. “That's really important. But the thing that's going to really make a difference in changing policies about housing, access to housing, and also ways that we treat the most vulnerable among us.”

Each upcoming discussion will be held at noon that day.

September 6 at Our Place, 631 N. Last Chance Gulch

“Who Is My Neighbor?” (stories of people living on the streets), facilitated by Theresa Ortega, Good Samaritan, and Rev. Dr. Jeff Buscher, United Way

September 13 at the Montana Jewish Project (historic Temple Emanu-El), 515 N. Ewing

“What’s Education Got to Do With It?” (information from an educator, social worker and a parent interacting with unsheltered children and adults), participants include Michele Zentz, Homeless Liaison for Helena Schools, Siobhan Hathhorn, Chair of the Helena School Board Trustees, Jaymie Sheldahl, Family and Community Partnerships for Rocky Mountain Development Council Head Start with Jennifer Hedges.

September 20 at Covenant United Methodist Church, 2330 E. Broadway

“Practical Considerations and Overwhelming Needs” (a perspective from local government regarding low-income housing and the challenges the city and county face) facilitated County Commissioner Andy Hunthausen and Mayor Wilmot Collins

September 27 at Plymouth Church – UCC, 400 S. Oakes (lunch provided)

“What About Drugs, Addictions, Mental Health and Other Life Threatening Concerns on the Streets”, facilitated by Teresa KelleyBrewer, PureView Health Center, Healthcare for the Homeless, Shandy Day, Nurse Care Manager, with Ryan Lehman, Community Health Worker, St. Peter’s Health