During the public comment portion of last night’s Great Falls City Commission meeting quite a few local residents got up and expressed their opinions on the “homeless encampment” at the First United Methodist Church.
You can view the video of the meeting here. Public comment begins at about 7 minutes 30 seconds into the meeting.
There are differing points of view on the nature and scope of the problem and both sides were represented in public comments.
On one side we have those who live and work in the area of the FUMC and who strongly believe that the church is enabling and encouraging a health and safety problem, creating an unnecessary hotspot for drug use, alcoholism, and crime.
On the other hand are those who feel that the church is only trying to fulfill it’s mission to the less fortunate because no one else will do so.
As I sat and listened to those in the second category I couldn’t help but think that I was being preached at and reproved for being an uncaring, mean person if I didn’t wholeheartedly agree with their brand of “compassion”.
I’m sorry to say that most, though not all, of the rhetoric coming from the “preachers” came across as smug, self-righteous, morally superior grandstanding offering no actual solutions, only finger pointing.
Accusing the City of Great Falls and the city commission of hard heartedness and failure when it comes to addressing local issues of poverty, addiction, and homelessness is absurd and, quite frankly, ignorant.
There are two problems in this situation – first, the larger, long-term issue of homelessness and it’s causes; and second, the immediate concern of a serious crime and safety issue in the neighborhood and community.
Why is it that some folks only want to acknowledge and demand that others deal with the first problem, while they themselves ignore the second?
There are two things that the City has the capacity and authority to do in relation to these two problems:
Number one is to enforce our public nuisance ordinances to protect the law abiding citizens, residents, and businesses adversely affected by the situation occurring on the FUMC property. The mission of the church doesn’t supersede or negate the rights of taxpayers to enjoy a safe, clean environment in which to live and work.
Number two, the City can, does, and will continue to administer federally distributed funding (CDBG, HOMES, ARPA etc.) to local organizations that routinely address a variety of social/community problems.
I support both of the above solutions and will continue to do so.
Instead of virtue signaling, crowing about their own “compassion”, and issuing vague platitudes about how “someone should do something about homelessness”, if the folks who spoke last night would come to the City with a solid plan and specific applications for funds they would find a willingness and readiness to help.