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Homelessness, mental illness, poverty, substance abuse are not pretty.

Being homeless means sleeping in a car, surfing couches or walking the streets all night. It means being dirty and having only what you can carry. These people have to tolerate hot, wet and cold weather. Some are mentally ill and desperately need help. Others are addicted and use cheap liquor to stave off withdrawal. Others have visible handicaps. Some lost their job and cannot find another in time for the rent. Women lose their children because they do not have the means to care for them.

All homeless people are more at risk to become crime and abuse victims. Some suffer injuries from the weather. They do not have the resources to become employed — a telephone, a résumé, decent clothes, transportation or a place to bathe. Worst of all they must tolerate the stigma and derision from some of their fellow citizens.

The Hub and Crisis Center attempt to deal with these problems. The need is overwhelming. Shooing the homeless and sick to a poorer part of town will not solve these problems. It is not clear they would leave if the Hub and Crisis Center were moved. The Hub and Crisis Center occupy prime real estate in a prosperous part of town. Native Americans and these clients have something in common. Someone always wants what they have.

For years, parties have tried to buy the Hub. I call on the county commissioners to adequately fund care for these fellow citizens and show compassion for their misfortune. Ideally the state, county and city would provide safe housing, compassionate care, jobs or job training, safety and expand programs like the Hub and Crisis Center. I urge the public to volunteer at these centers or donate money to help. I believe the present threat to withdraw funds is mean-spirited and unhelpful.

Thomas W. Van Dyk MD

Billings

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