The Homeless Industrial Complex Shell Games Will Go On Forever, As Intended

by Travis Mateer

The institutional decay of this dying empire is a barely obscured reality ready to pounce from behind the hypnotic veneer of public relations.

And when it pounces–perhaps in the form of sprawling homeless encampments that required heavy machinery to remove over 60 TONS of trash–I can only hope your community has a Susan Hay Patrick available to string words together explaining how big non-profits, like her United Way, just can’t help because they’re already doing so much.

Since no one hits “reply all” to email threads like Susan Hay Patrick, let’s take a look at one of her recent efforts to frame her non-profit sector’s NON-effort to pitch in and haul out homeless trash (emojis and emphasis NOT mine):

Hello all. 
Even though I consider mass emails and Reply All to be scourges of modern existence🤣😉, I wanted to communicate United Way’s position on river/camp cleanups, and also speak up for the Poverello Center and related organizations, which I think were mischaracterized in the last mass email. Although all our organizations, of course, remain aware of and concerned about the potential environmental impacts to our community’s vital waterway if nothing is done to clean up the Reserve Street encampment, we are not responsible for cleaning up these areas, nor do we have the capacity to join the cleanups. 

Susan is correct, the kind of responsibilities she represents is the taking and spending other people’s money, not actually mitigating the unforeseen consequences of the ever-expanding the HIC (Homeless Industrial Complex).

How IS that HIC going, by the way? From the link (my emphasis this time):

Missoula County Commissioners approved a contract with the WGM group to design and construct a new temporary safe outdoor shelter site off Broadway near the intersection of Mullan Road. The contract is valued at $70,725.

The original TSOS site near the Buckhouse Bridge is on privately owned land, and per the agreement with the owner, it needs to be moved.

The new location is on land owned by Missoula County.

The areas of this excerpt I’m drawing attention to contain fun inaccuracies and omissions.

First, it’s supposed to be a TRANSITIONAL Safe Outdoor Space. Second, the “privately owned land”, where the old TSOS exists, is tied to Blue Line Development, the same developer building the Trinity Complex by the jail and, wouldn’t you know it, right next to the County land where the NEW TSOS is going to be built.

Here’s some more context I provided last May on this scheme.

Now, let’s return to Susan Hay Patrick’s damage-control-reply-all email and her parenthetical concern-trolling regarding volunteer risk (again, NOT my emphasis).

United Way and other nonprofits (like the Pov and Hope Rescue Mission) go “above and beyond,” operating at or above capacity every day in terms of our efforts to provide housing, services and support to our unhoused neighbors. While we work hard and effectively, with very limited resources in proportion to the problem, we simply do not have the capacity to plan, supervise, or join clean-up efforts on property we do not own. I am not certain why, given our organizations’ limited resources, some expect us to do more than we do already. (Others can speak to the risk of relying on volunteer labor to clean up hazardous waste.) 

Hmmm, I wonder who “others” might be? Could it be our local law enforcement who have contributed to this environmental disaster through not enforcing laws? Or how about the Health Department, who tried to compel the Sheriff’s Department to do their jobs by fining the Department of Transportation, one of the property owners facing liability risk and infrastructure damage?

Who cares, at least WGM is making some money, along with some innovative tent company from Washington. Also, what’s this “jail access construction project”?

The new shelters are created by a Washington company named Pallet and are built to handle the elements.

“These new shelters are insulated, heated and air-conditioned. You plug them in. They cost about $8,500 apiece and are in fact actual housing,” Commissioner Josh Slotnick said.

WGM Group is currently in charge of the jail access construction project which is right next to the new TSOS site.

If there are any Veterans utilizing these $8,500 dollar tents who don’t like these accommodations, they can soon try the new home for the Poverello’s Housing Montana’s Heroes Veteran program, which got a $830,000 dollar boost to purchase the Clark Fork Inn.

Good times in Zoom Town!

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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