Another Act Of Violence Linked To Missoula’s Poverello Center

by William Skink

I probably shouldn’t be writing this post, and definitely not on Thanksgiving day. I should be taking a break and reminding myself what I have to be thankful for, like the fact I live in Montana and not a lockdown-crazed state like California.

But instead of doing that, I’m trying to NOT think about Lee Nelson’s last moments of life before the psychopath he met at the Poverello Center took him down Broadway to the Riverfront Triangle and proceeded to bash his skull in with a blunt object.

Lee Nelson was one of the nicest clients I ever met at the shelter. His innocent demeanor derived, in part, from what I suspect was some kind of developmental disability. He traveled around the state constantly, more than happy to sleep rough under overpasses, until his body started getting too old to support his wanderlust.

As more sickening details come out about this murder, and the sick fuck who committed this brutal crime, I think it might be time for the Poverello Center to do some serious soul searching about who they are serving, and how.

2020 got off to a tragic start at the Poverello Center when Sean Stevenson was killed in an alleged physical altercation with another client, Johnny Lee Perry.

A few months later, in April, a man with a developmental disability was raped in a bathroom at the Pov. And now this:

Police confirmed Nelson had spent the night at the Pov, and video captured him talking with the defendant Friday morning, according to the court record.

The same morning, the defendant was seen with a group of other males, where he allegedly handed one of the men a silver baseball bat or similar object, and the man “appeared to be testing it by swinging the bat-style object around,” the affidavit said. The Pov is less than half a mile from the scene of the homicide.

Maybe I’m reading too much into this quote, but it seems to indicate that a group of men at the Poverello Center, in clear view of surveillance cameras, feel comfortable enough to casually pass around a potential weapon. Is this indicative of the environment there?

The Poverello does a nearly impossible job every day of triaging our community’s failure to address a whole host of serious, systematic issues. That means they are serving a wide variety of people. Some clients are very vulnerable and some clients are obviously dangerous predators.

Right now the Poverello Center is using the fact an investigation is still happening to avoid the policy conversation that needs to happen:

The Poverello Center couldn’t tell us what their process is for screening guests due to the active investigation.

They released this statement to NBC Montana: “The Poverello Center staff work hard to ensure our shelter is as safe as possible for everyone we serve. The Poverello Center safely and professionally serves individuals who are in crisis every single day. We have strong policies and procedures, and the staff receives regular training so that we can respond quickly with compassion and care when a crisis impacts our guests.

Your guests are being raped and murdered, Pov. Maybe it’s time to review the supposed strength of your policies before the next vulnerable client is brutally killed by a dangerous psychopath.

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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