The Transitional Month Of April For Homeless Services In Missoula

by Travis Mateer

Because of technology problems and time constraints from a new job, I’m taking a little break from putting out new episodes of my podcast, Zoom Chron. Instead I’ll highlight some past episodes and provide relevant updates.

I published my conversation with Geoff Roach on November 7th, 2021. At that time Geoff was staying at the Transitional Safe Outdoor Space (TSOS) just off highway 93 on the way to Lolo.

Since recording this conversation, Geoff was told to leave the TSOS. According to Geoff, this was because he kept smoking cigarettes in his tent. Another development is that this entire community is moving locations. Here’s some bullshit reasoning about WHY the TSOS is moving from the link:

The Temporary Safe Outdoor Space (TSOS) that was erected on private property near US Highway 93 south of Missoula one year ago and has been operating in a temporary emergency capacity since that time. But now, officials say it’s been so successful in helping people get into permanent housing, that they want to keep it going – but in a new location.

So, if the EXTREME SUCCESS of the TSOS is not the real reason for relocation, then what is? To answer that question, one has to first answer the question: who owns this private land. And that answer is the Richmond’s of Blue Line Development, the same company that’s building the Trinity Apartment complex by the jail.

And wouldn’t you know, that is EXACTLY where the TSOS is hoping to move, next to the Trinity build.

The new potential spot is just behind the jail and Trinity Apartments — near Broadway and Mullan. When officials decide on a new location, they’ll put up infrastructure and hard-sided shelters.

Project coordinator Casey Gannon says prioritizing new homeless shelter locations — in the city and county’s Operation Shelter Project — is Missoula’s attempt to keep offering services for those experiencing homelessness.

“I think there’s no perfect site for a situation like this, it’s not a situation anyone wants to have in their city, but we can’t do nothing,” Gannon said. “This is our attempt to hopefully at least put a dent in the problem and keep improving as we go.”

Is this reasoning, provided to the media by local officials, the ACTUAL reason for the move? I don’t think so. Here’s my theory: Blue Line failed to achieve their Larchmont Golf Course land swap scheme and that is the REAL reason to vacate the property still owned by Blue Line off highway 93. They get to free up the property to sell or develop, while consolidating the TSOS with the MUCH BIGGER Trinity project.

While this move is happening, the seasonal transition in homeless visibility is ALSO happening, spurred by the closure of the Johnson Street Shelter later this month, April 18th to be specific. Where will they go? That’s a great question, especially since this year law enforcement is pretending to be serious about enforcing laws around illegal encampments. From the second link:

There will be more homeless persons looking for places to stay as spring and summer weather arrives, and the city and county have made it abundantly clear that urban camping is illegal.

The Missoula Police Department has been tasked with enforcing that ban, however, even though urban camping is illegal, it is not an ‘arrestable offense’.

The article doesn’t explain that private security is ALSO being tasked with keeping homeless people from camping illegally in no-go zones, like the sprawling terrain around the Reserve Street bridge.

And guess what? Both law enforcement AND private security AND the Montana Department of Transportation are doing a PISS-POOR JOB of managing the Reserve Street area, despite literally hundreds of thousands of dollars being spent on staffing private security and building that idiotic fence, which actually makes clean-up efforts in this area MORE DIFFICULT.

To wrap this up, I began today’s post with my interview with Geoff because I saw him passed out downtown by his walker on Sunday. Two drunk Natives were “watching over him”, they assured me. I talked with the man and the woman for a bit after telling the woman an emphatic NO when she tried panhandling me.

The woman asked if I could help her get back into the Poverello Center. She was on a 30 day loss of services, she told me, because she had punched a man in the face, an act of violence she didn’t recall, since she was blacked out.

If only there were ACTUAL treatment options that were ACTUALLY available to a person like this, maybe she wouldn’t be slowly killing herself and hurting others in the process, but there aren’t. There are so few in-patient programs in this state, and so little funding for anyone without private insurance, that addicts are left to languish on the streets until they die, or commit crimes serious enough to incarcerate them.

And, for the record, killing a black man at a homeless shelter in Missoula is NOT CONSIDERED serious enough to warrant prosecution and prison.

Thanks for reading.

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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