The Narrative Gatekeepers Who Congratulate Themselves In Public Op-Eds Are Undermining Cleanup Efforts At Reserve Street

by Travis Mateer

Later today I’ll be posting this week’s episode of Zoom Town. The topic is the Reserve Street homeless camps. If you want to know the history and nature of my frustrations, it will be an informative episode on a complicated subject.

During the episode I read most of the Sunday op-ed written by Susan Hay Patrick of the United Way and co-signed by Jim Hick of the Union Gospel Mission and Dave Strohmaier, our County Commissioner. This op-ed is about changing the “T” in the TEMPORARY Safe Outdoor Space to TRANSITIONAL.

The first half of the op-ed is a list of all the successes clients have had since the TSOS was established at the beginning of the pandemic. The tone in which I read out these accomplishments reflects my frustration that the narrative gatekeepers who like to publicly congratulate themselves about being such great homeless advocates are undermining the cleanup efforts at the ILLEGAL Reserve Street camps.

Let’s take a look at the language being used to highlight the TSOS and minimize/ignore problems happening at Reserve Street and the Johnson Street shelter in Midtown:

We believe it is critical to change the “T” in “TSOS” from “temporary” to “transitional,” and extend this unique public-private partnership. If we don’t, many unhoused people now residing in the TSOS, in the Johnson Street Emergency Shelter (closing April 30), or in the illegal Reserve Street encampment, will camp, or live in cars in local neighborhoods, without access to the kind of structure, relationships and services that have made the TSOS a success. This will result in poorer outcomes for unhoused people, strain our emergency-response system, and pose a risk to community health and safety Let’s stick with what works.

I really don’t understand why the “transitional” continuation of the TSOS is being tied to outcomes at illegal camps on Reserve Street and the Johnson Street shelter. It almost feels like a threat coming from these homeless advocates.

I’m not going to make threats in response to this bullshit. Instead, I’m going to make a promise to bring A LOT more attention to the dynamics at ALL these locations, including the arson that is happening at Johnson Street AND Reserve Street.

Yesterday I started doing my own outreach to local businesses near the TSOS and the Johnson Street shelter. And last Friday I took some video footage of the Reserve Street camps. I am also working with a client to reconnect him to his financial resources because he has been without his resources for over a year.

This is how I work, and my approach has a track record of success, and I am bringing that record of success to Reserve Street whether the manipulative homeless advocates want me to or not.

Like I said in my email, I will work with anyone who wants to be a part of the solution. Unfortunately, I no longer see the United Way and the Poverello Center as a part of the solution, especially when they are actively trying to undermine what we are trying to do at Reserve Street before spring run-off takes all the trash, needles and wasted food down stream.

Ultimately they can’t stop us from cleaning up trash on public land (or private land where the land owner is begging for assistance).

They can send condescending emails, pretend they care about the dignity of their clients, and do other underhanded things to depict organizers as angry, hateful critics of angelic do-gooders like Susan Hay Patrick, but at the end of the day WE are the ones taking action, while THEY hide behind the rhetoric of their political backers and funding sources.

Until there is a change in leadership, I’m going to just keep doing what I’m doing. If others want to help, great. And if efforts to stop us continue, well, we’re going to see how strong that narrative-gate is.

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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1 Response to The Narrative Gatekeepers Who Congratulate Themselves In Public Op-Eds Are Undermining Cleanup Efforts At Reserve Street

  1. Pingback: The Meat Of My 4 Point Plan To Restore Trust Between So-Called Homeless Advocates And The Broader Missoula Community | Reptile Dysfunction

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