To my fellow Hi-liners:
I am a proud member of the Havre Masonic family. I am an Eastern Star member and the daughter of a Master Mason. After reading the article “Tenants have to leave rooms in masonic building,” I feel I need to shed some light on some of the issues surrounding this tragedy.
It’s true that the individuals living in the temple will have to relocate. Not because the Masons wish to displace them, but because the city is enforcing its building zoning codes.
I know that these zoning statutes are in place for a good reason. Just as I know the Masons would love to make their beloved temple building maintained and zoned for multiple uses. Unfortunately at this time it is not. I know, personally, that many Masons have spent countless hours of labor and personal funds to keep the building as up to code as possible. The bottom line is they do not have the resources at this time to fix all that is required of residential zoning. Mike Conley, the former building superintendent, had his heart in the right place when he allowed residential tenants. He provided sleeping quarters for those who did not or may not have had a place to live. However, this was expressly against the city codes. No amount of wanting or needing a place to live, no matter how many people did or did not live there previously, changes that fact.
Our — the masonic family’s — hearts and prayers go out to the Gonzales family as well as many others. I wish I could heal the mother-son relationship that prevents David from living at home. We wish we could help and provide housing for all the Center for Mental Health’s clients. Although Masons do not have the money or the facilities to resolve this, we certainly understand the problem.
This brings me to the real tragedy, which is lack of affordable housing and shelter for the Hi-line’s homeless. Personally, I know of families living in motels because they can’t find housing, children living in cars because they can’t always afford an expensive motel room, and people living outside because they are not fortunate enough to have a room or a car. Many of these citizens are working families and individuals who just can’t make ends meet. Tragically, winter is coming and they have no place to go.
Do not kid yourself by thinking there is already enough available resources to help. I understand that the efforts to establish a homeless shelter are no longer happening. I realize people living dollar to dollar cannot always come up with deposits or first and last month’s rent. My Masonic family and my church family are already praying and considering what, as a community, we can do to help these individuals.
I am now asking my Hi-Line family to join us. I know I am grateful for my warm home and worry for those without one. Mrs. Gonzales and David, I pray many blessings to you and to others in the same tragic situation. Maybe someone or some ones with the resources or the ingenuity to make a difference will read this letter and do so.