DIL Editorial: Helping to confront homelessness

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The death of a man in his van at the Wal-Mart parking lot has brought attention to the serious problem of homelessness in the Flathead.

While the circumstances of this particular man’s death are not entirely known, we can all agree that as a society we want to help people come in from out of the cold. A story in today’s Inter Lake describes some of the resources available to help folks who find themselves without a roof over their heads. This is especially important in a mountain community in Montana in the middle of winter. Snow and frigid cold are killers.

As you will read in today’s story, law enforcement officers often try to find temporary housing for people who need to get out of the weather, from referring them to local shelters to trying to get someone a motel room for the night. There are also community resources such as Samaritan House, United Way, the Salvation Army and the Northwest Montana Veterans Food Pantry that provide a helping hand to those in need. Community Kitchen — Feeding the Flathead also provides free meals on a rotating basis throughout the year.

Homelessness isn’t just a problem that afflicts down-on-their-luck adults, either. In Kalispell alone, there are more than 350 kindergarten through 12th-grade students in the district defined as homeless — lacking a fixed, regular or adequate night-time residence. Sparrow’s Nest of NWMT is an organization based out of Kalispell that provides resources and safe housing for unaccompanied homeless high school students in the Flathead Valley. Its goal is to work with the community to help these students graduate from high school and become contributing and productive members of our community.

But even with all of these resources, none of us can assume that someone else will take care of the problem. It is a shared responsibility of all of us to care for and care about our fellow citizens. If you know of someone who is or might be homeless, consider calling 211, a three-digit nationwide number, to learn about services in our community. If you can steer a person — young or old — to shelter, you will both sleep easier.

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