Locals gather to discuss unsheltered crisis in Helena; more lectures coming

Nolan Lister

Nearly 100 Helenans met at Lewis and Clark County Library Wednesday to kick off a series of lectures regarding the rise in unsheltered people across the country, and particularly in the Queen City.

Helena’s Plymouth Church, in conjunction with United Way of the Lewis and Clark Area, the Montana Jewish Project, Good Samaritan and the Helena United Methodist Churches, organized the five-part series, with the remaining four scheduled every Wednesday at a different location and each boasting a unique topic.

In addition to local experts, the series will draw from “Rough Sleepers,” a book by Pulitzer-prize winning author Tracy Kidder, and attendees are encouraged to read the book.

Wednesday’s lecture at the library included a historical overview of the unsheltered crisis from a policy standpoint by Carroll College professor Pat Christian.

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“The fact that we have so many unsheltered people today is a product of political and economic systems and the outcome of deeply held values and assumptions,” Christian said.

She said the reasons often given for why people are without permanent shelter include mental illness, addiction, poverty, poor choices, laziness and criminal backgrounds.

“Research suggests that

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