We Can Be Compassionate Without Being Naive


Within the past 10 days in Great Falls:

  • The Cascade County Sheriffs Department busted a human trafficking/prostitution operation here.
  • A Great Falls woman was arrested for selling meth and heroin on multiple occasions to undercover cops.
  • I went to the Great Falls Public Library on a Friday afternoon and encountered several people camped out on the lawn next to the fountain. Two of them were literally ‘camped out’, asleep in sleeping bags in the middle of the afternoon.
  • A friend of mine who lives downtown recounted to me how he is approached while coming out of his apartment by ‘street folks’ either panhandling or offering to sell him drugs on a regular basis.
  • A young local woman told me yesterday that she no longer feels safe jogging in Gibson Park at any time of the day because of the indigents living there. She also related that she could smell human feces in one area of our public park.
  • A totally naked man is photographed wandering around in front of the Civic Center and downtown in the middle of the day. The pictures have been widely shared on public social media sites.

I’m aware that these kinds of things happen ‘everywhere’. But I don’t live ‘everywhere’, I live in Great Falls, Montana and I’m becoming increasingly concerned about what’s happening in our hometown, as are many others.

Great Falls seems to be experiencing all of the added social problems associated with a city that’s growing and developing but with none of the benefits – like an expanding tax base and higher wages etc. Here are the U.S. Census Bureau numbers released in February of this year.

I’ve talked to many folks who will no longer allow their children to go to the park or the library because they are afraid of whats going on in the bushes, in the public restrooms, and quite frankly, right out in the open.

Because I object to some of our Great Falls public areas being used as campgrounds for the homeless doesn’t mean that I don’t have compassion for those with mental health and addiction problems. It simply means that our public library and public parks should not become unsafe, unwelcoming places for the public.

There are other solutions to addiction, homelessness and mental health we should be exploring, including perhaps providing a single, public space for homeless folks who are willing to seek help for addiction and mental health problems from the many available resources here and, for those who are physically able, to find work.

But let’s not kid ourselves – not all of the homeless and less fortunate we see on our streets have mental health or addiction issues. Some of them are just lazy, irresponsible bums who are perfectly capable of working, like the rest of us have to, but who simply don’t want to follow the rules of society, like the rest of us have to.

Those are the ones that hide behind those who have actual mental health and addiction problems.

Those are the ones who do far more damage to the cause of helping the less fortunate than those of us who bust our butts working to help pay taxes for public assistance and who insist on clean, safe streets and public areas, especially for our children.

Am I concerned about the less fortunate in Great Falls? Certainly. I’m just as  compassionate as those who try so hard at times to establish their moral superiority by saying I’m not, and I have a decades long record and history of volunteering and giving to help the less fortunate here in Great Falls. But I’m more concerned about the hardworking, taxpaying citizens who are trying to live and raise their kids in a safe, clean community.

Let’s all be compassionate, but let’s none of us be naïve.



Posted by Rick Tryon

Rick Tryon is an entrepreneur, a singer-songwriter, and is currently serving a four year term as a Great Falls City Commissioner. Helping Montana become an even greater place to live, play and work is Tryon's passion.

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8 Replies to “We Can Be Compassionate Without Being Naive”

  1. I’m not to sure when Great Falls started to be the place it is currently, however, I can say from living out of State in big cities and grew up in a small town, Great Falls by far is the worst run city I have ever lived. I grew up in a small town and lived in big ones where the Mayor was known and seen on the news being invovled. Here in Great Falls, I see an empty suit hiding in some office you can never get into. I have seen and talked with the leaders in this community and in our schools, they act as if they are the overwhelming power to us all. The downtown meter issues is a great example. I don’t remember voting on such a measure. I see crimes everyday and yet am told in the news they are being addressed. I see tax after tax issues within our local government go unchallenged and when they are by the citizens, they are demonized and bullied. We only need to look to Tammy’s comments just a few months ago on such subjects.
    Don’t even get me started on the non-profit issue in Great Falls. These guys couldn’t help themselves out of a wet paper bag, and we trust them to help this ill community? Show me the numbers of the clients they have helped. I could go on and on, however until this communty stands up and puts them in their place, Great Falls will countinue to head down a distructive path.
    Here is they sad part, I have to request to not be named in this post.


  2. I think Great Falls is ranked the forth safest city in Montana and population wise the third largest. 1 and two in population, Billings and Missoula, are statistically less safe and have that growing pop. we all like. I love the idea of concentrating the homeless, mentally ill and addicted into a single public space. We probably wouldn’t want to call it a camp though. Because I only can see the naked guy in front of the Civic Center from behind I can’t be be sure it isn’t the Mayor . That would explain the empty suit in his office. These are just my thoughts after a beer and medicinal doobie.


    1. So we’re advocating concentration camps now?


  3. There is no legitimate psychological construct known as laziness. Look it up. I’m serious.

    Further, if someone decided to not be employed, that’s a legitimate decision and people can knock it off with their moralizing. For one, people weren’t always worked hours a day under watch. That’s new in human history and was never even desirable until people were forced and socialized into it.
    I’m no expert. I’m a layperson. But what I’ve read and learned, casts serious doubt on this ‘laziness’ narrative. It needs to end.


  4. Hello Rick and All!
    Driving the west end of 1st Avenue South near the Civic Center the other day, we saw the nude man you pictured, parading around down there, and no one seemed to care, but this is Great Falls, and it’s not just our public areas that are used as campgrounds for the homeless, and it’s not that my family and I lack compassion for them or others who are down on their luck or have mental health or addiction problems, but Great Falls’ homeless, vagrant, derelict problem is out-of-control and extends far beyond the lower North and South sides. We live on the east side and presently have a group of young men living on our avenue in an ancient motor home (they don’t own) with expired registration, “borrowing” electricity from a home whose tenants are absent, and “borrowing” water from the rest of us. Great Falls Police know they’re there and ordered them to move but continue to fail to enforce their order. How these young men can stand it inside this hot, stinky old motor home without air conditioning in this kind of weather, I don’t know. I do know that they have no restroom facility and aren’t a bit bashful about urinating outdoors, day and night. I wouldn’t be surprised if addictions play part of their problem, but they look like they could work if they wanted to. Throughout this spring and summer we’ve had multiple groups living on our avenue in vans, SUVs, pickups and motor homes, most of them without current registration or license plates and none of them with restroom facilities. Solutions to these problems, whether they stem from addictions, homelessness or mental health issues surely are no simple matter, but this is just part of the problem. Great Falls City leadership is terribly flawed and Great Falls law enforcement, in these regards, is practically nonexistent. If we could move our neighborhood squatters to the street or avenue bordering our mayor’s house, I bet the problem would be handled immediately. What do you think?


  5. We are not qualified to judge whether someone ‘chose’ to be homeless or are/aren’t mentally ill. You can’t “look at” people and know what is going on with them. Mental health is more complicated than that. Peoples lives and how they get where they are, socioeconomic factors and all. Are a lot more complicated.


  6. Nick, It isn’t necessary to apply a diagnosis to unacceptable disfunction. The existence of the disfunction is enough to “judge” that an individual needs some kind of correction, letting them live under the bridge is not an act of compassion for the addicts, the mentally ill or the victims of crime that truely pay the costs for the vagrant lifestyle, there is no free lunch.

    There has to be some sane place between “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and the world as we have created it today. If I ever fall down the rabbit hole, I hope I get compassionate tough love instead of the non-judgemental hippy love that lets me be crazy me and freeze to death under a bridge.


  7. […] found it interesting that the day after I wrote a piece about transients camping out at our Great Falls Public Library and in our public parks I noticed this piece in the Billings […]


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