Why is local government allowing people to live outdoors, some in “encampments”?

The U.S. Supreme Court recently reaffirmed that cities cannot criminalize homelessness, for instance ticketing people for sleeping in public areas. Police officers and sheriff’s deputies can remove camps from public property, but this usually worsens the situation for all: Local governments have a legal obligation to store people’s property; issuing citations for local ordinances attempts to fine people who have no money, often tarnishing people’s records, which furthers their inability to pass landlords’ applications; dispersing people throughout the community makes them more vulnerable to criminals and more difficult for service providers to find should they have good news about housing; and usually people relocate elsewhere in the community, lacking resources to travel far.

People who have been living outdoors and outside mainstream society for some time often need considerable time to regain trust that someone from “the system” actually intends to help them. Missoula’s professional service providers, such as those who work for the Poverello Center’s Homeless Outreach Teams and Hope Rescue Mission, work to rebuild trust. They also work to bring people into the services they need, such as health care, food assistance, financial support, disability assistance and treatment for mental health and substance use. In 2019, outreach providers helped 20 households of people experiencing homelessness and sleeping on the streets find permanent housing.

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1. Why has Reaching Home: Missoula’s 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness not ended homelessness?
2. Why is local government allowing people to live outdoors, some in “encampments”?
3. Why don’t the police arrest people for panhandling?
4. Why don’t police arrest people who are drunk in public, for instance on the Courthouse lawn?
5. Most homeless people are from other places. Why do we take care of them?
6. What about the public health concerns about trash building up in camps?
7. Why doesn’t the City make the Reserve Street bridge riverfront area into a park?
8. Is Missoula in line to become the next Portland, Seattle or San Francisco in number of people experiencing homelessness?