Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Making Missoula Home

“I gave my home away today.”

I'm hugging a stranger.
She is crying and I'm trying really hard not to.

In my hand is a rain spattered list of mobile homes that are delinquent on their property taxes.
Everyone in this mobile home court received a six month eviction notice five and a half months ago, and I am attempting to figure out which homes on the list are still occupied, or planned on being moved, and can benefit from a community of strangers that raised $10,000 to keep folks in their homes. Folks who can leave, have left. The lots are a mix of occupied, empty, abandoned, trashed, and taken over by squatters.

Her home is not on the list.
Her mobile home, well maintained, loved and updated, is too old to move.

Nine years as a owner of her own home are gone.
Thirteen years working for the same employer and nothing is okay.

She gave away her home.

“I'm sorry.” I say.

My personal, professional, and public office worlds have been and are crashing together and its making me dizzy. I can't seem to figure out how to navigate a path, any path. Is there a path?

“What is the city's plan for the for the fall out created by this removal [of folks living in cars and campers in a city parking lot] as people relocate into our neighborhood?”

I don't answer.
I don't know how to answer.
I don't know if there is an answer.

There clearly is a problem, and yet, I can't define the problem clearly.

I want to say: “Some of those folks have always been your neighbors. They aren't relocating into our neighborhood. They are losing their neighborhood.”

I feel like I do nothing at work.
I make some phone calls, send emails, set up a meeting, address the construction hick-up of the day.

I stand on the south east corner, and look over the still empty site of the future Lee Gordon Place, which will add seven permanently affordable homes to North-Missoula Community Development Corporation's Community Land Trust, smack dab in downtown Missoula. To get to today, has taken three years, two of mine, half a dozen grants administrators, and countless tears. I'm never sure where to push, who is on my team, willing to help, worthy of trust.

I watch the excavator dig.

Why is this so hard?
So slow?
Why does it feel like a constant battle?

I find myself at tables were I don't feel I belong.
I find myself surrounded by folks with means, access to capital, and thus, incredible decision making power.
I find myself struggling to find and define the appropriate vocabulary, to create a bridge across a giant, invisible, but present divide that seems to be growing everywhere and even here.

I'm failing.

“Wait,” I want to say: “Why are we talking about being Silicon Valley's second office? What about access to quality childcare, safe affordable housing, social equity and economic justice? Where does this fit in your idea of Missoula? Where do I fit in your Missoula?”

The Missoula I know just payed off the property taxes on thirty one homes.  Thirty one homes will not be auctioned off tomorrow.

That should give me faith, but I'm struggling.

I'm struggling, because in the Missoula I know, an individual seemingly can also do everything right, and still lose everything. I can't help wonder about how many others are invisible, go unnoticed, voiceless, and unsupported, until they are the subject of an email, invading our neighborhoods.