A Defense Of The Flathead County Commissioners Letter To Their Community Regarding Homelessness

by Travis Mateer

About three hours before I started writing this post a heavy police response was noted by the Missoulian at Hawthorne and Toole Avenue, just one block north of the Poverello Center’s main facility for homeless individuals on West Broadway. Here’s the witness account of what could be discerned during this pre-dawn raid:

Witnesses said they could see more than 10 law enforcement vehicles in the area. Officers went door to door warning residents to shelter in place on the north side of their homes along Toole.

A witness heard two loud “bangs” shortly after 5:30, followed by two more at 6:05 a.m. The officers appeared to be surrounding a parked recreational vehicle on Hawthorn Street.

On the other side of the river, at the Poverello’s Johnson Street congregate shelter, the nice fellow pictured below was arrested over the weekend for punching a pregnant woman in the stomach.

From the link:

The officer asked Doe to explain what happened. She told the officer that she was inside one of the port-a-potties and had hit the door with either her foot or her knee. Whitedirt was outside and yelled to her “are you f*****g trying to start s**t with me inside there?” Doe said that she responded with “no” and explained that she didn’t even know who Whitedirt was. 

Whitedirt responded by forcing open the door to the port-a-pottie and attacking Doe. Doe explained that Whitedirt entered the port-a-pottie and used two hands to grab either side of the collar of her sweatshirt. Whitedirt then pulled up on the collar and lifted Doe off the toilet. Doe said that this caused her sweatshirt to strangle her. She explained that she had difficulty breathing and saw stars. When she called 911, she said that she may have lost consciousness. 

After Whitedirt lifted Doe by her collar, he shoved her back down into the corner of the port-a-pottie. According to court documents, Doe said that when she tried to get up Whitedirt punched her in her belly. Doe pointed to the top center of her belly just below her ribs indicating that’s where she was punched.

Who is this Whitedirt? Is he a local, or did he come to Missoula for the liberal-enabled, target-rich environment? Looks like it could be the latter, since he was in Idaho a decade ago getting arrested before relocating to Missoula.

It’s with this backdrop in mind that I read the letter signed by Flathead County Commissioners asking their community to stop enabling the homeless. The outraged reaction to this letter from ignorant do-gooders who can’t think critically about the homeless industrial complex that compensates them is what THIS former homeless service provider is going to break down. Let’s begin.

Dear Flathead County residents,

We, the Flathead County Board of Commissioners, are addressing the community after receiving numerous complaints of an increasing and distressing problem in our valley. The Flathead Beacon recently reported that Kalispell has the second highest number of homeless in the state. If we continue to enable the homeless population, then those numbers will increase.

The simple truth is that providing homeless infrastructure has the predictable consequence of attracting more homeless individuals to our community. When a low-barrier shelter opened in our community, we saw a dramatic increase in homeless individuals. Using social media and smartphones, these wanderers are well-networked and eager to share that Kalispell has “services” to serve their lifestyle. Make no mistake, it is a lifestyle choice for some. In fact, many of the homeless encountered in our parks, streets, and alleys consist of a progressive networked community who have made the decision to reject help and live unmoored. Although well intended, facilities that offer only shelter, and no accountability, exacerbate the problem.

What is so controversial about the assertion that increasing homeless infrastructure will lead to an increase in the number of people looking for services? Not only do I find this statement to be accurate, I can even think of a particular individual who is what I consider a professional shelter-hopper. Here is the portrait the Pov took of him for their marketing/fundraising efforts:

I ran into Dane years ago while on vacation in Livingston. When I asked him what he was up to, he excitedly told me about going to Butte to check out the donated FEMA trailers Butte providers were going to use for homeless services. It shouldn’t come as any surprise that some people choose this type of living as a lifestyle. Ever hear of the Rainbow Family?

Let’s continue with the letter:

Therefore, it is our hope that our community will be unified in rejecting all things that empower the homeless lifestyle. Many times, that spare change that you give to the homeless individual standing at the intersection is used for drugs and alcohol. We are asking our peers serving on city councils to not permit or expand warming shelters that bring more of these homeless individuals to our community.

We believe that hard conversations solve hard problems. We ask members of our community to speak out about their experiences with the homeless. Only together can we make it clear to this networked homeless community that “enough is enough.”

That’s it, that’s the letter.

I don’t begrudge these Commissioners up north for wanting to put their foot down on the services that function as an attractant to increasingly violent elements of the drug culture fueling the proliferation of marginal living in Montana, which people see as “homelessness”. If I have any criticism, it’s the fact that focusing on “homelessness” puts other factors, like drug and sex trafficking, on the back-burner, where its connection to the higher end of the socio-economic spectrum (known as customers of sex/drug services) can be properly ignored.

Now, how about I say something NICE about homeless services? Because, thanks to a recent appearance from a PR person from the company Pallet, I actually DO have something nice to say, which is a surprise to me.

The woman who gave the presentation (with a nice-sounding English accent) clearly understands the dynamics of their TRANSITIONAL housing units because she emphasized that they are NOT homes and should only be used as transitional housing. The benefit of having a private space that can be locked is tremendous for people who are trying to climb out of bad situations, but infrastructure won’t matter if the human side of service delivery isn’t competent and tied to trustworthy institutions of accountability, like law enforcement. I don’t think either exist in the ways we need them to for the programs to work as intended.

The local homeless coalition in Missoula that formed last year before the crisis mill levy was voted down came up with a response to the Flathead County Commissioners. Here it is (the image might be difficult to read):

Yesterday I spoke with several businesses and one person who lost services from the congregate shelter and no one thinks what’s happening with homeless services is safe or sustainable, but this reality isn’t making it into conventional media headlines. And that’s a problem. What does make the cut is our placeholder, multi-modal Mayor condemning the Flathead Commissioners.

From the link:

“This statement lacks compassion and demonstrates a fundamental lack of understanding of the root causes of homelessness,” said Hess Monday night.

He added the Flathead commissioners’ assumption that social support draws homeless people into the community flies in the face of well-established evidence. Data demonstrates, “people do not generally relocate to access services at any appreciable level.”

Sure, Hessinator, I’m sure you have some data to back up your claim, but I’m willing to bet it won’t stack up to my decade of non-profit experience working the frontlines.

In my own small way I’m trying to address the problem of an uninformed public, but I’m just one person with a blog and a no-fuck-giving attitude when it comes to exposing what I know about the homeless industrial complex, and those who profit from hiding the extent of what’s happening. If you would like to help my effort, please consider making a donation at my about page.

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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1 Response to A Defense Of The Flathead County Commissioners Letter To Their Community Regarding Homelessness

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