Besides 2020 being the year of COVID, it was a year for social awareness, for Black Lives Matter, and for educating ourselves about those who face systemic oppression in our society. One such group of people, who in Montana are disproportionately BIPOC (Black and Indigenous People of Color), are the people in our community without homes.
My dear friend Aly and I spent some time in Bozeman's tiny downtown Soroptomist Park dancing with and listening to the stories of some residents of this park and took time to educate ourselves about and witness this population. Over the last many months, I spoke with city officials, advocated for the population in a City Commission meeting, and spoke with the head of HRDC (who provide services for this population). Bozeman's unhoused population has no year-round permanent shelter, and city laws forbid them of even pitching a tent. The large majority have jobs, but many of those who want shelter cannot afford or find a place to live.
More recently, I happened on an article in Bozeman Magazine celebrating a 112-page report put together by Montana State University, which discussed ecological and development approaches for Soroptomist Park. What was never mentioned once was the population of humans often residing in this park. They presented no evidence of having spoken to a single person living there.
This upset me, and I commented on the article. I shared it with Aly, and she also commented. Bozeman Magazine Publisher Angie Ripple reached out to Aly asking her to write an essay explaining our views. Appreciative for the platform, we wrote the piece you can read here. True to Angie's word, Bozeman Magazine has published it unchanged. Besides following the link, it is available also for free, available at a number of stores in town.
We call for unhoused residents to be treated with respect, that we listen to their stories, and hear and consider their needs and desires. Too often, their lives have simply not mattered, particularly here in Bozeman. This must change.