Brandi Atanasoff

Homelessness can happen to anyone, at any time. If you have a job, and the ability to save to get into a place, then homelessness doesn’t become permanent. If a person becomes homeless because of a health issue, it is really hard to get back into housing.

Our behaviors set the foundation for our ability to survive. When a person goes through a health issue their body is already in shock. When a person loses their home in the middle of something that is already causing trauma it adds three times more stress to their already stressed system. Staying in homelessness for too long can cause damage to a person’s nervous system. Which can cause many of the addiction issues we see people struggle with.

When you need to make changes to survive you become more sensitive to your environment so that when your survival is threatened you can navigate obstacles and feed your young where there is no clear path.

To naturally solve the overstimulation of senses a person needs to repeat behaviors that are required to survive, while healing from the trauma of the survival event. The sensory experience slowly adjusts itself as a person’s needs are met. When a person leans into drugs for fast relief, while walking with a massive amount of stress, it causes the body to crave the relief.

The most effective way to relieve high levels of stress from survival events is physical activity. Using drugs to relieve high amounts of stress, just once, may lead to addictions that are hard to quit. If you are walking through a stress event and are having a hard time with stress management a general practitioner (M.D.) can prescribe anxiety medication to lessen the impact from stress on your body.

When a person ends up homeless, after a major survival event, the only way for them to get back to their normal functioning again is to do the behaviors needed to survive. The only way for them to get better is for them to put one foot in front of the other. The drive we have within, as animals, is to survive. The only way to get out of homelessness is to make appointments, fill out forms, and navigate the resources available. Being a passenger while navigating resources, required for survival, is similar to being a passenger in a car. Passengers don’t see how they got to the place they ended up, which means they will not know how to maintain it without being reliant on other people.

There needs to be more structure to the process of navigating the resources available to those living homeless within our town. The structure should have easily accessible instructions available, in the places through town that the homeless population is served, about what resources are available and how to navigate homelessness in our town.

The tools available to get out of homelessness include section 8 housing, food stamps, Medicaid, LIHEAP, and the food bank network. Medicaid covers social worker assistance, if a doctor writes an order for more assistance. All of those tools require people to show up and follow through. When designing structures for our community it is very important to understand how the structures we design shape a person’s behavior and choices.

When someone lands in homelessness they may need to be led through the resources and prompted to fulfill all tasks required to get into housing and meet other survival needs. There are many organizations in our community with social workers that designed their lives around helping people walk through experiences to a better future. Their part in solving homelessness is just as vital as all other areas.

The services that the town’s partners have provided towards solving these issues are incredible. I believe that Missoula could create tools to motivate employers in the area to implement a system for employees to donate directly from their paycheck to a nonprofit of their choice, which could be used as a tax write off (some employers have already accomplished this).

I believe that the City of Missoula needs to have a conversation about renter protections that can be implemented to protect our peers. In Los Angeles when property is sold tenants are given a settlement to move. With the current cost of living not many people have enough savings to get into another place.

We just witnessed many of our peers end up homeless when a few land parcels with trailers sold. There are many people that lost their homes and some people even lost rental income. Without protections people are left without a means to find another place to live. With the amount the cost of housing has increased I believe we also need a rental increase cap to show we truly care about homelessness.

FEMA has found that: six out of ten households in America experience at least one financial emergency a year; about one-third of American families do not have any savings; almost half of Americans would struggle to come up with $400 to help cover an emergency.

As a non-partisan Mayoral candidate for Missoula, I support connecting the resources we have for homelessness without spending any more tax dollars. If elected I intend to survey the homeless population to find more about who they are, what brought them to living on Missoula’s streets, and what resources they will use.

Brandi Atanasoff is a candidate for mayor in Missoula.