Exploring The United Way’s Curious Pallet Partners

by Travis Mateer

I started getting more interested in the organization that built Missoula’s new TSOS pallet village by the jail after reading about the odyssey United Way’s Eric Legvold went on in order to find this amazing company. From the link:

KGVO News was part of a special presentation for local media on Wednesday for a tour of the new facility that contains 30 new hard-sided shelters.

Eric Legvold, Director of Impact at the Missoula County United Way said he went looking for a shelter that would replace the tents at the original TSOS just off Highway 93 South.

“I actually went on a road trip and did research across seven different sites in the west and I came across the Pallet Shelter organization, and came to realize that this would be most likely our best bet for providing something that is hard-sided, that is safe, secure, and can operate in a facility like we want. These are 100 square foot structures that have heaters, that have AC (air conditioning) units during the summer; that have a smoke alarm, carbon monoxide alarm, and that have fire extinguishers, a capacity for two beds if need be, and a locking door.”

This tale of a road trippin’ adventure to find just the right shelter by a United Way staff member felt a little contrived to me, so I decided to go online to see what this Pallet Shelter organization is actually all about, and I’m sure glad I did, because WOW! This company looks to be positioned to ALSO make pallet shelters for WORKFORCE housing, a new type of housing our legislators could work to define this session.

This company and its VILLAGE of secure boxes WORKFORCE HOUSING should pair nicely with zoning code reforms. Maybe even the corporate structure of this company itself is something to emulate.

This company frames itself as a “public benefit corporation“. What the hell does that mean? Glad you asked, from the link:

Pallet began in 2016 as a Social Purpose Company (SPC), the Washington state equivalent of a B corporation. As of 2022, we’re proud to announce that we’ve transitioned to a Public Benefit Corporation (PBC). It means we use profitability to expand our impact. As our business grows, the more jobs and shelter villages we can create to end unsheltered homelessness. The change is a reflection of our growth as a company. PBCs are widely recognized across the country. More than 30 state legislators passed PBC statutes to make it easier for private businesses to establish themselves as a PBC or transition to one.

Think of a PBC as a hybrid of a nonprofit and for-profit organization. Our investment partners have allowed us to scale up quickly to meet the needs of the homelessness crisis. Those resources also allowed us to buy materials, secure a factory, and hire a skilled and consistent workforce. Because of our partnerships, Pallet isn’t dependent on community donations and grants like a nonprofit. At Pallet, the mission is the driving force, not a substantial return on profits.

Are you starting to see how Pallet is going to bring the “tiny home” movement to a code-reformed empty lot near you? It’s going to be GREAT for all kinds of people, like homeless individuals, “returning citizens”, immigrants, and even victims of natural disasters.

This company is a little confusing to track, since it has different aspects of what it does under different names, like SquarePeg Construction, which seems to be a high-end developer, but the non-profit part is called Weld. It gets very confusing. Is this all the same company?

After delving into these different entities, let me step back and ask a question: what’s the actual problem here? Homelessness is a crisis, fueled by addiction and the barriers that incarceration creates, and these interconnected companies seem to be offering solutions, so maybe I should just shut up and be happy that Missoula’s United Way found such an amazing hybrid company to partner with.

Well, after seeing how our own purveyors of the Homeless Industrial Complex operate public/private schemes with companies like Blue Line Development, I think I have good reason to be suspicious.

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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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4 Responses to Exploring The United Way’s Curious Pallet Partners

  1. TC says:

    Seems we keep looking to the West Coast for solutions regarding homelessness/sheltering. I can not find evidence of any real successes in places like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, Portland, Seattle, Spokane, etc. Instead it would appear that as more money is thrown at the problem the more the “crisis” is exacerbated. It seems that the only real success is the proliferation of non profits increasing their bottom lines at the expense of public funds. I think we can see that clearly in the TSOS; over a million dollars to establish 30 pallet homes and over $400,000 a year to maintain. Access to that kind of $$$ will lead to reports of success and the call for even more pallet homes and the need for more maintenance dollars. Somehow most of that money will go to engorging the “Homeless Industrial Complex”. I guess the CEOs of all our non-profits need a raise somehow, especially since the non-designated slush fund of the “Crisis Levy” was denied.
    The Housing First/Meet them where they are at model has failed everywhere its been tried – it will fail here as well but at least the United Way will stay flush!
    BTW – Slotnick needs to brush up on math. 50 out of 168 finding housing does not equal 50%. But it sure does look good in print

  2. Pingback: A Defense Of The Flathead County Commissioners Letter To Their Community Regarding Homelessness | Zoom Chron Blog

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