A City’s Campaign Against Homelessness Brings Stories of Violence

After watching a growing series of tents and other makeshift shelters spread into city parks and sidewalks, officials in northwestern Montana decided it was time for a crackdown on homelessness.

In Kalispell, city leaders approved an ordinance to punish motorists who give money or supplies to panhandlers. They shut off water and electricity at a city park where some were seeking refuge. The county commissioners wrote an open letter to the community early last year, warning that providing shelter or resources to homeless people would “enable” them and entice more of them into the area.

“It is our hope that our community will be unified in rejecting all things that empower the homeless lifestyle,” the commissioners wrote.

But in the year since that call to action, the purge effort has done little to resolve a problem that is still apparent — even now amid the frigid depths of winter — on the streets of a city better known as a gateway to scenic ski slopes and Glacier National Park.

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