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Missoula family fighting to find affordable housing

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Posted at 3:17 PM, Feb 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-23 17:17:36-05

MISSOULA — Two years ago, David Lawson Jr. and his dad, David Lawson Sr., headed out on a father-son road trip to Nevada.

They were living in Rosarito, Mexico when David Sr.'s congestive heart failure was worsening.

“They said to put him in hospice, and he said he wanted to die in Montana,” said Lawson Jr.

So they came home to Montana.

“He loves nature, he loves the weather, he loves the smell of this place. This is home to him. I wouldn't want him to die anywhere else.”

Lawson Jr. dropped out of college and quit his job so he’d have more time to spend with his dad.

His condition improved, and they were pre-approved for a mortgage in New Mexico. But a few days before they planned to leave, the dad felt a severe back pain.

Lawson Jr. said, “I took him to the ER and they said it was lung cancer that started in his left lung, and metastasized in his bones.”

The lung cancer came from years of working with asbestos.

“My dad says if you have a car you’re not homeless.”

But without a steady income, and medical bills piling up, they can’t afford an apartment.

That’s how they ended up in their car, and in a trailer on Expressway. Lawson Jr. said the hardest part isn’t even the chemo, or the cold, but the stigma.

He has called 211, the homeless information hot line, and said The Salvation Army would pay their deposit on a place, if they could find one.

“We were facing discrimination for him, because when I would mention that he has terminal cancer, it was almost like his application would go in the trash because they didn’t want him to die in the house.”

He said it's an endless loop trying to find resources that actually help, but they’re still happy, and hopeful.

“In a perfect world, everyone would have a place, everyone wouldn’t have cancer. I know our time’s coming, we’re just holding on to that.”