On The Questionable Efficacy Of Missoula’s Illuminated Braintrust

by Travis Mateer

Last week I spoke with a homeless man on the County courthouse lawn. He said some people were run out of the Reserve encampments and they have nowhere to go. He said he was directed to the Transitional Safe Outdoor Space, which he can’t access, and the Sleepy Inn isn’t an option either.

I investigated the claims of widespread dislocation of campers from the Reserve street area, but that does NOT seem to be happening. Something else that is NOT happening, which was reported on earlier this week, is ANY homeless people using the city-purchased Sleepy Inn.


Because our illuminated city leadership can’t do shit without Federal money, apparently, which is why the Sleepy Inn has been closed since THE END OF JUNE. I’m yelling because it wasn’t until September 1st that this was reported, so two whole months before the public is told this:

Missoula’s Sleepy Inn has been sitting empty since June 30 after Gov. Greg Gianforte rescinded the state emergency declaration for COVID-19, causing the county to lose FEMA money for noncongregate shelters.

That’s posing challenges for Missoula’s homeless shelters.

“Right now, there is nowhere for people to quarantine and isolate,” said Jill Bonny, executive director at the Poverello Center. “We are able to put them in touch with the health department’s social worker, but we don’t have an option for them to stay. Unfortunately, we are hearing daily about people quarantined in tents and on the street.”

While it was in operation, the Poverello Center would move a positive COVID-19 case to the Sleepy Inn. Without FEMA dollars, there’s no money to operate the inn.

Cool. Our illuminated braintrust bought a motel with TIF money because of the pandemic, and it’s been sitting empty for two months because, without FEMA cash, our leaders are apparently fucking helpless.

Also, if readers can recall all the way back to April 2020, when these rocket scientists paid A BUNCH of money for this nasty motel, there was concern about how quickly we paid $1.1 million dollars for a property worth MUCH LESS.

The three City Council members who don’t take shots of Engen’s Kool-Aid tried penning a letter, but to no avail. Here’s a portion of their plea:

We need to see commercial estimates by commercial appraisers. This hotel was listed six years ago for $675,000 dollars. At the time the owner was so desperate to get rid of it that they were offering owner financing on it. This price is close to half of what the city is now paying for it after 6 years of wear and tear in the middle of an economic depression. It is also worth noting that the taxable value of the hotel is roughly 400k less than the value the MRA plans to spend. It is our strong recommendation that the City gets at least two commercial appraisals. We do not know if a commercial appraisal has been completed on the property and we do not know if the tax dollars (that we supposedly preside over) are being spent wisely or appropriately.

Because these council members were ignored by the illuminated braintrust, we now get to read this about our empty congregate shelter in September of 2021:

After June 30, the county handed the keys back to the city. In the process, they found out there’s also a plumbing issue at the Sleepy Inn, but it hasn’t been investigated or fixed. It won’t be until the city decides what to do with the property.

If I were in another town in Montana, looking at what Missoula is doing, the last thing I would want to do is duplicate anything our braintrust is doing.

But that’s not the reaction in Helena. Nope, the dim bulbs running our capitol town are dealing with their own homeless problems and the BIG IDEA is to do an outdoor tent space like Missoula’s TSOS.

The only difference is the acronym:

Good Samaritan Ministries has proposed one idea on how to address the issue: the Helena Outdoor Temporary Safe Shelter, or HOTSS. 

Based on the Temporary Safe Outdoor Space program in Missoula, it would include tents and sanitary facilities and be staffed around the clock to serve people who are homeless.

Theresa Ortega, executive director of Good Samaritan, said the most important thing would be to connect people using the shelter with social services.

“You can have a place, but if you don’t have the services to help people to get to the next place, we’re still going to be in the same place that we are,” she said.

With so much help to provide people dealing with the homeless/housing crisis, I’m sure it’s all hands on deck to solve this dire situation.

Or maybe there are other, more pressing priorities, like trying to figure out how many dangerous, costly unvaccinated humans are roaming around the County.

Cue the illuminated COUNTY braintrust and their AMAZING calculating efforts! From the link:

While Missoula County leads Montana in vaccination rates at around 63% of the eligible population, nearly 40% remain unvaccinated, and local officials are trying to do the math to determine the future costs they’ll possibly incur as unvaccinated individuals get sick.

The Delta variant of Covid-19 is more virulent than its predecessor, which swept across the state last fall, killing more than 1,000 adults and hospitalizing countless more. With the new strain afoot, the number of cases are rising sharply, returning to figures not seen since last winter.

“We were chatting this morning about whether there’s a way to make some kind of an estimate on how many people are unvaccinated, and given a reasonable presumption that they’re all going to get Covid” said Missoula County Commissioner Josh Slotnick. “And how many people are vaccinated, and if 1% of them get Covid, and what percent will get hospitalized, and what a typical number of contacts are.”

Yes, the braintrust that struggles to accurately count homeless people in January is just casually engaging in morning chats about counting the unvaccinated because they’re reasonably presuming we’re all going to get this dangerous variant and cost the County precious money (which they don’t have).

At the risk of sounding uncivil, fuck these motherfuckers.

One factor inspiring my civility toward the braintrust is the effort last May to discover what they’re discussing behind the curtain of public/private partnerships. Remember that? Here’s a refresher if you don’t:

A Miller Creek resident and mom, Mackenzie Smith, who lives near Missoula’s outdoor homeless shelter, is still hoping to get more information about its operations.

NBC Montana told you last week when she filed a freedom of information request and only got part of what she asked for.

She received roughly 955 different emails or documents, but none included information about the budget and communication with landowners like she asked.

Smith was told to get that information it would cost nearly $800 for time and labor.

I guess transparency is a costly thing to produce in our liberal utopia, like the transcripts of the trial against Brandon Bryant, the whistleblowing drone operator our Missoula County Attorney’s Office tried making an example of with felony charges carrying the chilling threat of 10 years in prison.

If you want to know what happened in that courtroom in July, it will cost (I am told) around $2,500 dollars for the transcripts.

So, in conclusion, the next time you hear our illuminated braintrust use terms like “transparency” or “public safety”, try not to laugh in their faces. You probably won’t get an opportunity to do this anymore, since they hide behind Zoom screens, public/private partnerships and homeless people, but if you do, use restraint, otherwise you might be charged with the serious crime of making our elected leaders uncomfortable.

Which is a felony.

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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16 Responses to On The Questionable Efficacy Of Missoula’s Illuminated Braintrust

  1. Pete Talbot says:

    So Gov. Greg Gianforte quits taking federal COVID money intended for the homeless, and you’re blaming city and county leadership for closing down housing meant to quarantine these infected folks? That’s some mighty flawed logic there, Travis.

    • Would you be interested in a Gianforte doll? It would be a good way for you to channel that partisan rage. You could even stick it with safety pins while muttering prayers to Saint Fauci.

      • Pete Talbot says:

        “…fuck these motherfuckers,” says Travis. And I’m the one raging, right?

        • Let me know when your priories change from language policing to actual corpses.

        • Greg Strandberg says:

          Oh, look at Pete. What’s it been now, over six months since he lost his platform? Now all he can do is comment on the two sites he hates the most. What a fall. Just think – a year ago, Pete used to write for one of the ‘top’ sites in Montana. Now that site is shuttered, and Pete is withoug a podium. Even worse, the Dems in this state no longer have a sounding board. In reality, this might be the best thing for them. They were losing incredibly bad when Pete was singing their praises. It certainly can’t get much worse. Can it?

          Please, Pete…regal us with some of your fears, smears, and attacks. C’mon, give us your all, Pete.

  2. Johnnie Ulrigg says:

    About three maybe four City council meetings ago they put $300,000 towards repairing the Coleman motel sleeping in

    If I believe correctly the triple contingent pointed it out had it separated out from the rest of the general approved budgeting

    But they want to put $300,000 on repairing that area

    And the living example of what makes someone comfortable and I wish I had a mute switch

  3. Greg Strandberg says:

    A big problem is that the federal money won’t last forever, despite the Fed continuously printing it. Gianforte is indeed playing politics, and he’s smart. He knows that Missoula can’t make it on its own, not with its insatiable spending habits. Missoula needs the help of the state or the feds…but they’re not getting it. This in a town that’s increased taxes nearly 130% over the past decade. The citizens are sick of it. The three puppets on the county commission know this. Our disfunctional mayor knows this, as does his rubber-stamp city council.

    I love it! Our city is in serious trouble because of its terrible policies, terrible leaders. Know they bitch and moan to whatever media outlet will listen. This is going to be so much fun to watch, these losers trying to find money. $10 says they’ll blame Trump next…even though their man is in the White House.

  4. Pete Talbot says:

    More witty ad hominems from Missoula’s favorite denialists: William Skink and Greg Strandberg. You’ll also have to explain to me, Skink, your comment: “change from language policing to actual corpses.” That makes no sense, unless you’re talking about the six COVID deaths recorded in Missoula in the past two weeks. But hey, masks and vaccines infringe on your “liberty,” right guys?

    And didn’t you just lose a $10 bet, Strandberg? Oh, and I’m surprised I’m still banned at your site since you’ve averaged about zero comments over your last six posts. Wouldn’t a critical comment be better than none at all?

  5. TC says:

    Just to add clarification to Pete’s assertion (6 Covid Deaths in Msla recently):
    As someone tangent to local hospitals I can confirm that there were 6 deaths recently that tested positive for Co-Vid. What hasnt been said is if they died from Co-Vid. You see you could enter the hospital for, example, renal failure and die from that, while also testing positive for Co-Vid. You can be in the ICU for heart failure and test positive for Co-Vid.
    Do know why local hospitals highlight Co-Vid, regardless of what brought you to the hospital or what killed you? I’ll tell you (big secret) – because every Co-Vid positive patient warrants more Federal money to the hospital than a generic, boring heart disease death. So if someone is in the ICU with cardiac issues it is way more profitable if they are also positive for Co-Vid.
    Pete – that may have been Travis’ point about trading language for corpuses.

    • medtech 101 says:

      Viruses don’t kill. They take advantage of weakened immune systems, or weakened organs, and that’s what kills. Every covid death has an associated comorbidity (I know that’s a big word, but you might want to look it up). Simple epidemiology

      • Assume there is a real and deadly virus. Way back in March of 2020 the CDC ordered two things: One, a change in the way death certificates are prepared. If anyone dying of anything “tested positive” for SARS-CoV-2, Covid 19 was to be listed as cause of death. Even if a doctor only suspected Covid but lacked a positive test, he was still,to,list it as cause of death. Most “Covid 19” deaths are really comorbidity casualties. Italian health officials found that maybe 98% (going on memory here) of Covid deaths were really something else relabeled.

        The second thing they did was to prohibit autopsies of Covid-19 dead. Theoretically they were afraid of the spread of a deadly pathogen. Far more likely, they wanted to keep control of the game.

  6. TC says:

    So long story short – very fee people in Missoula, Missoula County, State of Montana, USA – die of Co-Vid. Most die of a pre-existing condition. Those that died were going to die but while they were dying they also tested positive for Co-Vid. Just like they tested positive for MERSA/C-DIFF. At the end of your life cycle, when your body is at its least, you test positive for all of nature’s evil. You die – but not what you tested positive for. You die because of the condition that brought you to the hospital. (For Petey (that doesnt know for med world) and everyone else – look it up

    • medtech 101 says:

      We’re all going to die. Birth is a terminal disease.

      So it’s ok if people that have pre-existing conditions die sooner if they contract covid? So its ok if someone who gets in a car wreck, and they have cancer, dies because they’re already sick? It’s ok if your elderly father who has manageable diabetes dies 20 years sooner than he would have because covid takes advantage of his pre-existing condition? It’s ok if a stupid person contracts covid and dies, because his stupidity led him to eat bad food and to ignore simple health precautions? It’s ok for a healthy person, who gets shot by a meth head, to not get admitted to the ER because there’s no beds or ER docs available to treat him because they’re all attending to stupid anti-vaxxer fat covid patients who are coding?

  7. TC says:

    To response to “”Medtech 101” – yes! Its ok to die for all those reasons and more. No one gefs out alive. If you think you have an alternative please share.
    I think what “we” are saying is that we all know we will die. But we want to choose how we LIVE in the meantime! To each their own.

    • medtech 101 says:

      Glad you’re not holding my medical directive papers: “no problem, let him die, he’s got cancer anyways. The sooner he dies the better. And we’ll save the insurance company a bunch of money.”

      You sound like one of those death panelists Chuck “Pull the plug on Grandma” Grassley warned us about.

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