Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Calling All Cooks

Here is your opportunity to get in on the fun... Below is a form you can right-click to submit an entry form for our cookbook project. Much thanks to the following restaurants and eateries who have climbed on board: McGarry's, North Bay Grill, Showthyme, Split Rock Cafe, Rising Sun Bistro, and Grill 459.

We would also like to encourage all members of the community ( even those without culinary expertise!) to submit entries. Our goal is to cast a wide net and make this project as communally holistic as possible. You do not need to be an accomplished chef... just have a love for food and willingness to share your recipe with the Valley. Here is some information that will hopefully be helpful.

Our homeless shelter in Kalispell is compiling a community cookbook that will be a must for every household. It will be full of tasty recipes from area restaurants, markets, caterers, churches, and YOU, the closet chefs, who are famous for your sauces or pies or chicken done just so. We need your recipes, your tips, your tales of food sharing. This cookbook will be filled with beautiful full color photos, interesting facts about food, presentation and serving tips, food stories from the homeless shelter, local homeless statistics, how you can cook for groups both large and small and how to share and enjoy food as a language of love.

Announcing an incredible contest...

Here is your opportunity to prove that you can combine frugality with culinary excellence. Samaritan House is hosting a contest with one simple rule... Prepare a healthy, well-balanced meal for 4 people without spending more than $10. That's right! Can you wow the judges by creating a cheap but delicious meal for less than a ten-spot?

All recipes must be submitted by February 23 and the contest will be held on March 9th at the Samaritan House Administration Center. Grand prize will be your very own Samaritan House cookbook! 

What To Do

Gather your recipes for appetizers, soups, salads (and salad dressings), pastas, vegetables, meats, breads, breakfast dishes, and desserts or anything else that’s a hit with your friends and family. Request entry forms from our blog, http://homelessintheflathead.com/ or your local church. Mail entry forms to Curt Lamm c/o  Samaritan House 124 9th Ave W, Kalispell, MT 59901. Call Heidi Long with any questions at 261-2480 or Curt at 257-5801.


All recipes must be submitted by February 23. We’ll have a “Bake Off” to determine “Best Loved” recipes in each category and to select those to be photographed (participation in the Bake Off is optional and not required to get a recipe in the book-though it will be used to judge category winners). Finalists will be contacted by March 1st. Bake Off dates will be March 9th, and 10th and March 15th & 16th with entrants bringing prepared dishes (servings for 4 or more) to the Samaritan House dining hall at the Administration Center-1110 2nd St West in Kalispell. Residents, participants, and local chefs will determine the category winners. Photos will be taken of various entries.

Advance Sales

Prepaid orders for cookbooks will sell for $15 instead of the $20 cover price. To qualify for advance sales price, orders and payment must be received by April 4th. Mail in payment for number of books ordered to P.O. Box 592, Kalispell, MT 59903. Please make a note in the memo section of your check that payment is for cookbook advance sales order.

Please note the three different addresses above.

Spread the Word!  Below is the form that can be used to submit a recipe.  Save this form to your desktop and print from there.

Monday, January 30, 2012

An Insane Idea.

I get several calls a week from people wanting to know how they can help Samaritan House. The offers range from inquiries about cooking meals to volunteering about sorting food in our pantry.  Some people are kind enough to bring in donations.
Recently I have fielded quite a few calls from people who want to help but simply do not have the time to offer that others do. Sometimes they ask about donating money but feel that anything less than a substantial amount would not be helpful. I assure them that any amount will be put to good use but when I end the conversation I can’t help but wonder if I made any sense. Then I read an article that contextualized things for me and thought I would pass it on to you.
U.S. workers, on average, spend $37 per week for lunch, but men spend more: $47 a week, versus $27 for women. Men also pay more for coffee -- $26 a week is typical -- and are more likely to complain about the selection of office vending machines.

One of the sharpest differences is between young workers and older ones. Professionals between 18 and 34 spend almost $25 a week on coffee
, $11 more than co-workers over age 45, Accounting Principals said.
Hmm… $37 per week for a month= $148.
$26 per week for a month= $104
The combined total for lunch and coffee for a month is a whopping $252!
So, if you are interested in donating to Samaritan House but are unsure of an amount that would be practical for your budget, allow me to introduce a revolutionary new idea I would like to call the 2012 Coffee and Lunch Challenge! Here’s how you can play right along at home.
For 1 week, buy instant coffee and make your own before you head out to work. We serve instant coffee for our residents, so give it a try. Also, brown-bag your lunch over the course of a week… sandwiches or soup or whatever else both tickles your fancy and can be easily exported with you to your job. With the money you would save, feel free to come on down and drop it off or send it in as a donation.
But alas… perhaps you are thinking this idea is aloof and will still not amount to much. Even though I am the furthest thing from an economist that you will ever meet, I did manage to Forest Gump my way through 4th grade math and here are the numbers I crunched: if the amount saved and donated for a week totals $200, here is what could happen.
5 people=  $1000
10 people= $2000
15 people= $3000
20 people=$4000
By nature, I am a cynical and skeptical person and although I fight it daily, everything in me tells me this is a lost cause and I am wasting my exemplary typing skills (it has already taken me 40 minutes to pound this out with the grace of a 10-thumbed gorilla). For 20 people to set aside a week’s worth of coffee and lunch money is asking too much, so I went and tried to find some odds that I liked.
According to the 2010 US Census Bureau, the estimated population of Flathead County was roughly 90,000 people. I am looking for 20. I am hoping against hope that .0002%  of the population will take me up on this.
Ask yourself if you would like to be a part of an absurd challenge that could yield astronomical results.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Food is Good.

Who likes to eat? Okay, put your hand down (I seriously hope you didn't even raise it).

Think of your favorite food and then imagine that you have an opportunity to share it with the world. Well, at least the greater Flathead Valley and its surrounding nether-regions. Now, add a different variable to this culinary equation: let's say we could raise awareness of our homeless situation at the same time. Still not convinced? Then I am afraid I am at a loss for words because what kind of monster would not like to eat and work toward a solution to the problem of homelessness at the same time?!

Samaritan House is in the beginning stages of compiling a cookbook that will serve a few purposes with one fell swoop of the spatula. While sharing recipes from some of the area's local restaurants, businesses, places of worship, and individuals, we hope to also raise some funds for our organization by calling attention to the following:

Who is homeless?
Why are they homeless?
Where can they go?
How can we help?

This is quite an undertaking and we have some incredible people donating countless hours, blood, sweat, and tears (which might not be the best phrases when writing about food) to this endeavor. If you are interested in submitting a recipe or would like to help us get this project off and running by donating towards it, please call the Samaritan House office and ask for Curt, at 257-5801. There will be more information forthcoming, but for now... bon appetit!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Home Is Where You Take It.

I've moved around a lot. Had the pleasure of visiting and living in quite a few places, both domestically and overseas throughout the years. But wherever the road has taken me, there were always things that reminded me of home. When the Steelers beat the the Seahawks in the Super Bowl a few years ago, I had to stay up till 3am to watch the game because I was in a different country. Being a Pittsburgh fan, I was ecstatic and felt an immediate connection with all the other fans even though I was in the United Kingdom. There was a bond. In spite of the fact that I was thousands of miles from home, part of my home was innately within me.

Many of our Samaritan House residents are in similar predicaments, although their membership to the homeless diaspora is not intentional; life is not how they planned it. They, too, have travelled and relocated and moved around from burg to city to township. It is easy to look at a person and see them in their current state without ever considering that they have an entire history behind them. Childhood memories and adolescent experiences have shaped what they are today. When our homeless residents arrive, it is essential that I take a step back and try to remember that they are not the sum total of their appearance. They are layered and have personal and intimate pasts that transcend the clothing they are wearing and the medicines they might be taking.

I was reminded of this as I was in our dining area this morning doing some very important things (making hot water). The news came on our communal TV and a lady erupted with laughter and joy at the announcement that the Patriots were going to the Super Bowl. She was from Boston and she was homeless and unemployed and sick and weary and... for one brief moment... she was connected with something greater than herself. She felt pride even though she was hunkered down in the Pacific Northwest and her team was all the way back in Massachusetts.

It happens with food and music, as well. The scent of a particular meal can transport us a million miles away to places we haven't visited in decades. We hear a song we imagined had fallen off the face of the planet only to have it usher us back to 8th grade. Home is a concept more than a location. It is easy to look at the homeless and see a statistic or a cause, but are we able to see people with a history? Individuals who long for the familiarity of the best memories form their past.

We concentrate on fixing the present and forecasting the future so much that we forget each person has an incredible story already wrapped up within them.

Friday, January 20, 2012

One Big Family.

Last week a friend of mine whom I respect greatly really opened my eyes. I had recently shaved my winter's beard and it was the first time we had spoken since the epic event. "Wow," he noted, "you don't look homeless anymore." He continued speaking to me but all that resounded in my head was this statement over and over... like a bad dance mix that keeps looping at a party you wish you weren't attending.

He was absolutely right. One thing I have noticed during my time at Samaritan House is that a great deal of our residents do, in fact, sport facial hair of all sorts of combinations and designs. How blind and jaded had I become by not recognizing that homeless people have beards? My life significantly changed that afternoon as I assaulted the streets of Kalispell with a new purpose to help as many homeless as I could. 

But then I felt a tad underprepared for this new task and thought I should do more research. I began observing the residents at the shelter and also noted that homeless people drink coffee. This would up the ante but it was, nevertheless, helpful. I thought how nice it was for all the individual coffee drive-through vendors to dedicate an entire business for the homeless. 

My next observation opened my eyes to something that had been staring me in the face but I still neglected to notice: The majority of our residents wore boots; hiking, mostly. I became saddened as I strode through a local grocery store one evening and noted all the people wearing boots. It was depressing to realize the homeless epidemic was spreading faster than anticipated. 

The despair in my heart reached its apex when a trip to a restaurant landed me right in the middle of a homeless camp masquerading as a local eatery. Sure, it looked like an average place where people gathered to eat meals in public, but what tipped me off to the reality of the situation was the fact that every single person was wearing either a tee-shirt or a button down shirt. Just like our residents. "Flabbergasted" is the only word that describes how I felt as I noticed that I was really homeless because not only was I wearing a shirt and boots, I was drinking coffee and had a smattering of facial stubble.

I owe much to my friend who opened my eyes to the problem of homelessness in the Flathead Valley. I then retired to my home for the evening to contemplate a way out of my ordeal. I did feel badly, though, for the other homeless people who had no home.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Knowledge is Power.

Remember the old School House Rocks videos? If you don't, then you need to stop whatever you're doing -after you finish reading this blog- and google them. Two things will happen upon completion of this little extracurricular activity: First, you will come appreciate the technological advancements thrust upon us by recent animation companies like Pixar and DreamWorks. Second, you will suddenly recall your multiplication tables while the catchiest jingles ever penned rattle around in your head the remainder of the day. You're welcome.

The anthem of these short, musical snippets brought Enlightenment ideals to every 8 year old alive in the 1970s and 80s: It's great to learn, 'cause knowledge is power! Learning was the key which opened the lock to the door of your dreams. There was no XBox or iAnything to compete with good old fashioned learning. Honestly, when the biggest distraction you face is Pong or John Travolta flicks, school work doesn't seem that bad. Anyway, the point of those cartoons aimed to show the importance of a good education was necessary for a person to start on the path to unencumbered success.

Fast forward a decade and a half and allow me to drudge up another image from popular culture. A few years ago I was watching a video by a band I like and I noticed a message scrawled across a guitar played by one of the members that said: ARM THE HOMELESS.

On the surface this pseudo militant proclamation can be very unnerving. Who wants to walk around a Kalispell where the homeless (or any population, really) are patrolling streets with a wide assortment of weapons and assault rifles? Not a good idea. So, after much contemplation and Internet research I decoded this mystical message and was shocked with the level of profundity staring me right in the face: This guy didn't want a 5th Column of homeless soldiers; he was asking for resources because knowledge is power.

The cycles of poverty that grip many of our homeless and low-income residents can be remedied by education. It is not a quick fix and it requires time and resources and funding but it is vital that doors remain open for these citizens to walk through. I am not saying education is THE answer, but it definitely improves the odds. Every day at work I see the effects of what a lack of education can produce: depression, self-loathing, boredom, feelings of insignificance...

Wanting the best for others is an admirable trait but sadly it is confined to theoretical discussions: "I wish I could help, but..." If you feel compelled to really help and you have the means, then please don't let life get in the way of another person's reality. Start a scholarship fund. Assist with after school programs. At the very least, don't get annoyed at the homeless guy in the library sitting next to you.

Monday, January 16, 2012

How to re/learn

When is the last time you relearned something? I don't mean going through the steps of a previously accomplished task or goal. Relearning has a negative connotation because it implies deficiency. We wouldn't have to relearn something unless we forgot how to do it in the fist place, right?

But what if relearning became re/learning and not just a rehashing of an old routine or practice, but an entire overhaul of a former thought process? Can we even do this? Is it possible to look at something we are familiar with and examine it without all the baggage that accompanies our beliefs and presuppositions? I thought I might try to get a different perspective on homelessness, but I am the first to admit the mere nature of my job disallows me to be as objective as I would like to be.

Children have a unique way of blending bluntness and honesty with empathy and sincerity. Perhaps the most beneficial way to go about this re/learning process might be to talk to a child. My son (who is 9) came to work with me today because it is MLK Day and he didn't have to go to school. I asked him some questions about what it meant to be homeless and the connotations that accompanied this issue. And you know what... his answers were almost identical to what any adult might have said. He had bested my investigative journalistic tendencies by not really telling me anything that surprised me. I felt a little defeated because my experiment had failed.

Shortly after our chat in my office, we meandered down the hall and into the dining area to put on some hot water so the residents could have coffee. This is a daily task for me so I fade into autopilot as soon as I begin this task, but my son was experiencing it with a keen awareness that I had abandoned months ago. What caught his eye and impacted him the most was the young girl, roughly his own age who was living at the shelter. Forget any lame attempt at an interview, I was re/learning by watching my son. He was shocked to see her it rattled him because (what he told me in our interview) he imagined homeless people were older and senior citizens.

Not this one. She was exactly like him.

And this is such an overstated mantra of nonprofit workers everywhere. We champion and sing it like its the national anthem or at least a really cool Radiohead song. "The homeless are just like us, only they've been dealt different circumstances." But do we believe this? Is there sometimes just a smidgen of patronization or self-righteousness that creeps in when we try to help them?
Do we have the ability to recognize the homeless as individuals and not statistics? Is their life so much different from ours?

How sad that it takes a 9 year old to teach me things I used to know.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday the 13th...

This morning it took a bit longer than usual to warm my car up.
I think I am nearly out of fuel for my snow blower.
The snuggie I received over the holidays is not my favorite color.
We are probably going to have fish tonight for dinner (had it once last week).
Both my kids have extracurricular activities on the same night.
Nearly out of recordable space on my DVR.
It took them 2 attempts to get my coffee order correct.
I am beyond bored with the apps on my iPad.
Really worried Tebow might not beat the Patriots.


I am so unlucky.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Its in the Bag.

Often, people ask me how they can 'make a difference' in regard to homelessness in the Flathead Valley. I pause and try to collect some thoughts before I spew an unnecessarily overcomplicated and jumbled reply that might even confuse the inquisitive soul more than when they first asked their question. It's not because I don't know what to say; its just such a broad topic and narrowing down the issue is helpful.

Recently I spoke with someone who (a while ago) asked me this very question but then came up with a solution of her own. So... how can a person 'make a difference?'

30 dimes is an excellent start.

Veronica is a transplanted New Yorker who has called the Valley her home for the past two and half years. We met a few months ago while she was coordinating a volunteer group to come to Samaritan House and, after talking for a bit, she wanted some tangible advice on how she might be able to help the homeless in Kalispell. Really, how does one person effect change in the lives of others? Her idea was brilliant in its simplicity and practicality.

She began compiling gift bags to hand out in the community to people who might need them. These aren't Oscar-style swag bags; there aren't iPads or Rolexes and I doubt anything in them has ever been autographed by Tim Te bow or Justin Beiber. Instead, there are socks, hot hand warmers, wet wipes, apple cider packges, small snack foods, and a message of hope. She puts these together for $3.. or 30 dimes... or the price of a really nice coffee with a few trimmings added.

Veronica keeps these bags with her in her car and hands them out as shes driving around Kalispell. The beauty of this idea is that anyone can do it and it does not require any added time to an already compact schedule. If you have to drive somewhere, you can instantly be ready to give one away. But there is more involved if a person allows it. Often, Veronica has a conversation with the person and not only provides them with some physical items. She acknowledges them as a person and talks with them. Hears their story.

I realize those of you reading this (all 10 of you) are doing so because you have at least an interest in helping others. Assistance does not have to be some expensive or overbearing gesture. It can be as simple, yet effective, as handing out a bag of items to someone who can use them. I would love to hear your stories about your own ways to reach into the lives of others.

Perhaps you will inspire more people who feel overwhelmed and isolated. Email me and I will be glad to relay your story to the rest of the community. If anyone is interested in helping Veronica, you can reach her at: veronica.thompson@ywammontana.org

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Just a Dream?

Next Monday is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. He was a polarizing figure whose message elicited a response from anyone who met him. Since I was a history major (with a civil rights emphasis) in college, Dr. King holds a place of particular interest for me. His 1963 speech in Washington DC is often quoted as a rallying point for equality and is familiar to many Americans. Almost 49 years later, if we reflect upon his ‘I have a dream’ speech, I am left asking myself how this admonition has changed things.

Dr. King waxed eloquently on race-relations at the time, but this passage from his speech can also be applied to our current homeless epidemic in the United States:

“In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."

If something is unalienable, then it is innate. You don’t have to strive for it because it exists independently of your actions. Theoretically, the genesis of our nation spouts (at the least) an opportunity to pursue happiness. Happiness, in this sense is not a mere feeling or emotion, but the chance to find gainful employment based upon what a person was good at doing. It was centered around Aristotle’s ideas (sorry, please forgive the history nerd) that an individual in America ought to be able to pursue a career that puts food on the table as well as a smile on the face. This is the American Dream.

But is it the American Reality?

This is not a political blog and I am not endorsing a particular belief system or party. My only real thought is that so many of us wake up and pour ourselves into uniforms or job descriptions that we never imagined we would be wearing. When did things change? When were our ideals substituted for the drudgery of a 9-5 world that dictates our very existence? When was the last time we dared to believe in anything? To be fair, many people have jobs they absolutely love and I cannot paint a picture depicting mass discontent because there are exceptions to every rule. But I know too many people falling into the former category.

I write this blog from the confines of an office with a view far more telling than any picturesque landscape or skyline. From my office I watch people every day who have given up on the American Dream because they feel like America has abandoned them long ago. Finding work in this economy, even with a college degree, can feel like an absurd battle. Try doing it with a criminal charge on your record or having gaps in your resume because you were in treatment for alcohol or chemical dependency.

There is a common and gross misconception that the ‘homeless’ are just looking for a handout or content to live off the government; they don’t work because they don’t want to. Do some people fall into this category? Sure. So do many people who have homes. My experience and observation tell me that most of our residents want to work. They want jobs. They want to feel a part of something bigger than themselves… like a community or (gasp) even a country.

So, my final thought is this: hire a homeless person. Help someone else dream big.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Rise & Shine & Rise & Shine...

Bumper stickers are a great way to proclaim your life's mantra as you cut someone off at an intersection, thereby rendering any opinion attached to your bumper as null and void. Honestly, does it matter if the blue sedan that nearly T-boned you has a pithy 'keep it local' sticker? Are you any less infuriated when 4 cars to your left stretch the yellow light into obscene shades of orange but the final one proclaims their kid is some genius scholar at one of the local elementary schools?

Recently I saw a bumper sticker that told me variety is the spice of life. Three things happened: First, I heard my deceased aunt Velma's snarky voice echoing this because it was one of her favorite soundbites. Second, I found myself growing hungry for some curry. Lastly, I wondered what life felt like if it lacked variety and was bound to a regimented schedule that was not easily altered. Can you imagine doing the same thing every day, over and again because you had limited options?

The Bill Murray movie, Groundhog Day, came to mind. In this flick he played a reporter stuck in a small Pennsylvanian town. An accident caused him to wake up every morning and experience the exact same events in the same sequential order every day for numerous days. Ever feel like that? If variety is truly the spice of life then this menu is in need of a serious culinary overhaul.

Every morning, Monday- Friday, I arrive at Samaritan House in the morning and see many of our residents go through the motions of a mechanized routine. They drearily filter into our dining area and sleepily assault the coffee pot before planting themselves into a chair to watch the morning news. Then, its off to breakfast, the library, or some of them go back to their rooms to wait for lunch. This happens with precision regularity and is dolefully uneventful. There is no variety for many of our residents because they have slid into a type of survival mode that covets routine because it is easier to face the day when there are few surprises.

In their experiences, surprises are often attached to tragedy.

Occasionally, a resident or two will arrive who transcends this scheme. He or she hasn't been conditioned to accept a banal existence dependent upon predictability. There is an understanding that life is not over because a person is homeless. There are options and factors that can be taken into consideration that will help them break free and live. These individuals are an inspiration to me.

They are spice.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Improvement is Better than Change.


Ever have those moments where it feels like the whole world is spinning and whirling and indifferent to the fact that you cannot seem to keep up with its frantic pace? The end of 2011 and emergence of a new calendar year has ushered in new challenges and goals for Samaritan house. The past couple days have been trying but it appears we can, at last, take a collective sigh of relief before we move on to what is in store. Finally.

Our first major venture of this year was to begin utilizing our Administrative Center to serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner every weekday. Previously, dinner was the sole meal offered there, so we are excited to have expanded the scope of this function. This herculean task involved transporting tons of equipment and food items from our shelter residence to the former armory a block and a half away.

I would like to say this was accomplished with joy and whimsy, but lets be honest…moving freezers is not what a person wakes up in the morning thrilled to do. A philosopher once uttered, “That which does not kill you makes you stronger.” Well, we now have many stronger staff members. Competent and caring staff has always been a high priority here, so we are happy to say our new hires have jumped on board rather well.

So…enjoy your weekend and this unseasonably, absurdly warm weather because Old Man Winter is jostling around and I have a feeling he’s about to wake up from his current catnap.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


The Super Bowl is about a month away. So, as an avid Steelers fan(sorry, Denver), I am excited by this time of year. But hold on… don’t stop reading if you are not a sports fan because this blog is not about touchdowns and field goals.

This years’ NFL championship game will be played in Indianapolis and the National Coalition for the Homeless published an article that raises some interesting points. As the city prepares for the infusion of tourists and the money that accompanies such an event, there is an effort to keep the local homeless population off the streets and out of public eye. City officials promise that there will not be any ‘forced relocation’ which is comforting because we all know politicians do not lie.

I can understand a city’s desire to maximize every endeavor to generate finances in such dire fiscal times. I cannot fault a local economy for wanting to capitalize on such a unique opportunity to profit and reward its vendors and businesses. A few monkey wrenches are tossed into this equation, however. One fundamental flaw in what is happening in Indiana is the idea that if the homeless are kept off the streets, then the ‘problem’ is remedied. This is simply not true, but it is also another blog for another day.

Perhaps what is irritating me the most is the idea that a person can be identified as homeless on appearance alone. There is a definite stigma attached to homelessness and many times a homeless person is perceived to look a certain way. There are some truths rooted in this mass generalization… many chronically homeless individuals do not have access to clean clothes or regular hygienic resources. But to jump to hasty conclusions regarding all homeless persons based on half-baked theories as to who is and isn't homeless because of their physical attributes is ignorant and mean-spirited.

Right now the city of Indianapolis is preparing to ignore one of largest elephants to ever grace a living room anywhere. It is easy to cast stones. But how many times have we crossed the street to avoid passing someone who made us uncomfortable? Have we, in the Flathead Valley, become so highly evolved that this is not an issue for us? I like to think we are making strides in this area, but I will leave that up to you.

Monday, January 2, 2012


I have a confession to make: I am not a native Montanan. I’ve lived in the Flathead Valley (mostly) since 1996 and I have come to think of it as my home. As a transplanted east-coaster, I have chosen to live here because there is so much that I love about this place we call Big Sky Country. I mean, really… who wouldn’t want to live here. Picturesque lakes and glacial peaks interspersed with lovely shades of evergreen. Abundant wildlife and natural resources that could warm even the grinchy-est of hearts. This just seems like an ideal destination for anyone.

Most of our residents are not from around these parts, either. Each has an epic tale on how and why they ended up in Kalispell, and while each is unique to its narrator, there are common strains that bind many together. Some incorporate tragedy with hope. Many tell of loss and redemption. Still others warn of unwise choices. In spite of the similarities and discrepancies peppered throughout their stories, there is one unifying fear that binds them together: Montana is not a hospitable place to be homeless in the winter. In fact, it can be absolutely deadly.

How surreal when the very same view experienced on either side of a window can yield vastly different results. Tucked warmly inside a home or apartment or even traveling in a car, Montana in January can be an aesthetically inspiring place to soak in everything around. Just a mere six inches away … the space of an outstretched thumb and index finger… can be the difference between life and death. Outside these windows life is not as accommodating or friendly; the blustering winds and brutal cold transforms Narnia into Paradise Lost.

Take some time to inventory your surroundings through the eyes of Kalispell’s homeless. The same wintery attributes you clamor for can be the biggest fear for the homeless.