Last Wednesday, two Missoula men - one, a senior at Hellgate High - stomped to death homeless Navy veteran, Forrest Clayton Salcido, near the California Street footbridge. The attack was unprovoked and random.
In response, director of the Poverello Center, Ellie Hill wrote a moving comment on 4&20 Blackbirds about the plight of homeless veterans in the country and in Missoula, specifically. In short, she knew Forrest Clayton Salcido.
The Poverello Cneter is the largest emergency homeless shelter and soup kitchen in Western Montana, and serves hundreds of veterans each year.
As Executive Director of the Pov, I am asked to educate Missoulians about poverty and homelessness often. I am honored to do it. The faces of homelessness are diverse. I speak before civics groups, classrooms; you name it. But I have observed that many people seem to want to hear about homeless kids, homeless women, and other marginalized demographics. We serve the many diverse faces of homelessness at our downtown facility. There is no doubt that they each need unique and expanded resources. But when I start talking about the number of homeless vets in Missoula, I feel a visceral lack of interest or understanding of their complex barriers to housing and employment (For example, the reaction some in our community recently had to what was viewed as a sudden increase in the number of our chronically homeless citizens panhandling downtown; letters to the editor referencing "the unwashed".) It frustrates me.
These honorable men and women come home from horrific conditions, often without a job, often with strained family relationships, not to mention unspeakable injuries of the body and the mind. Some of these guys will tell you that they were not prepared at all to go back to a "civilian" life. Their money runs out. They stay in cheap motels. And they go to the Pov.
Go and read Ellie's words. Get informed about the plight of homeless veterans, here, in Montana, here, in Missoula. Whether you agree with the war or no, it's clear that we owe a great debt to the everyday Americans who fought in our military, and who were broken by their experience.
I realize we've been hitting you up for giving a lot here at Left in the West. And you've responded, giving over $700 to the Montana Food Bank. And now I'm going to make a plea on behalf of the Pov. The Poverello Center is supported by local donations and local volunteers, and relies on people like you to function. So consider donating, or, if time is short, consider volunteering. A few dollars to the Poverello Center is the perfect gift for that certain someone who already has everything he needs...