The transient man found dead at a Helena recycling business last week was previously offered a list of local resources but did not use them, Lewis and Clark County Sheriff/Coroner Leo said. Duton.
Authorities said Jacob Garza, 24, of Utah, died Thursday of multiple blunt trauma after apparently seeking refuge in a cardboard recycling bin that was picked up by a City of Helena recycling truck. . The man was dropped off at Pacific Steel and Recycling in Helena, where he was crushed by a trash compactor.
Dutton said Garza had been in the area for about a week and was living in a vehicle near Interstate 15.
He said Montana Highway Patrol contacted Garza earlier in the week when the man was found unconscious and transported to St. Peter’s Health.
The man’s father was contacted at his home in Denver and said Garza tended not to respond to people, Dutton said.
“(Garza) had a hard time figuring it out,” Dutton said, later adding, “I suspect there were mental health issues.”
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According to Dutton, Garza was last seen walking near Planet Fitness, and is believed to have climbed into a recycling receptacle in that area.
Dutton said law enforcement offered Garza a list of local resources and social services, which he described as a brochure with phone numbers.
“He didn’t accept any of those suggestions,” Dutton said. “We are clearly saddened by a death, but you can’t make someone do something they don’t want to do.”
United Way of the Lewis and Clark Area community impact coordinator Dr. Jeff Buscher said Monday that Garza was not part of the Homeless Information Management System, a national database used by social service and safety net organizations to help track who is using these services and their progress.
The tool helps agencies learn more quickly about a client, their age, shelters they may have used, and shelter requirements they may or may not have met.
The database also provides a ranking, and agencies like the local United Way use these rankings to prioritize care for their clients.
“We try to assess whether or not a person is getting the help they need,” Buscher said.
The real task can sometimes be to get an unprotected individual into the social services pipeline.
“You try to create a safety net, but unfortunately some people fail,” Buscher said.
He said there is a collaborative effort currently underway in the community to establish a program that would identify frequent users of local resources, people who repeatedly rack up medical bills at area hospitals or enter and get out of the county jail, so they can target these people with personalized outreach.
“Homelessness is not a choice, it’s a lack of choice,” Buscher said. “Our job as a community is to provide more choice.”
Helena Mayor Wilmot Collins in a telephone interview Tuesday evening called the death a tragedy.
Although Collins said immediate policy changes are unlikely to come after the death, “we must still seek to prevent this tragedy from happening again in the future.”
He said he would solicit ideas from acting city manager Tim Burton, members of the Helena city commission and staff on what could possibly be done.