While Lee Enterprises Tells Its Readers About The Benefits Of Racially Segregated Housing, I’m Showing My Readers The Consequences Of Alcoholism

by Travis Mateer

Thanks to Lee Enterprises, I now understand that sometimes racially-segregated housing is just fine. Thanks Lee Enterprises!

I remember Linda from the Old Poverello days, when the shelter was located downtown. If my memory is correct, her husband was a white man by the name of Dale, who I knew very well. He’s dead now.

Dale’s alcoholism on the streets got so bad, he would regularly shit himself because he couldn’t physically get to a bathroom. The same thing would happen to David Bishop, who I found out this week from a long-time motel manager, ALSO passed away over the winter.

The motel manager told me it was heartbreaking to have to tell the man, pictured above, that he could NOT stay at the motel she manages anymore. It wasn’t good for business to enable this alcoholic to drink himself to death in her motel, but it was ALSO not good for her heart, emotionally speaking, to tell him no over and over again, especially when he promised he wouldn’t pee in the bed anymore.

The motel David Bishop used to call home isn’t around anymore because the city of Missoula bought it in a shady move at the beginning of the pandemic. Here’s the city defending itself earlier this year:

Deconstruction is underway at Missoula’s Sleepy Inn, but as the property is prepared for redevelopment, some residents say the deal is a waste of taxpayer dollars.

“Million to buy and thousands to demolish,” Mary Worden wrote on our Facebook page. “This is our hard earned tax money and they spend it without blinking an eye.”

Many others shared similar sentiments.

The city purchased the hotel for $1.1 million in 2020 and used it as a shelter for people sick with COVID-19.

Operational costs totaled $1,899,329.52, but the Federal Emergency Management Agency reimbursed those costs.

The city paid $24,787.38 in other operational costs but also earned another $718,046 in rent from the units.

Now the city is listing the property for $890,000.

The potential profit once the property sells could be $483,258.62.

When David was living in this rat-nest, it was because part of his foot was rotting off from frostbite. It was the dire situation with his foot that allowed me to convince the manager of the Sleepy Inn at the time to allow him to stay.

Here’s a picture of David’s foot (on the left) along with the foot of “Cock-Eyed” Joe (on the right). I was playing around with a photo-app at the time, so the image includes a stylized version of the Salcido Drop-In Center.

The feet of late-stage alcoholics is a disgusting thing to behold. It’s even worse in person. Because the smell.

Here’s another, more recent shot of a man’s rotting foot. Do I need to point out these are ALL WHITE MEN?

If these images are too visceral for you I’m NOT sorry because I didn’t invest 7 years of my life working at a homeless shelter just to sugarcoat reality for people who would like to pretend our elected leaders have a fucking clue about what’s REALLY going on in their own backyard.

That said, since I know reality can be a stomach-turning affair, here’s a plastic brick rendition of a common scene from my days working at the shelter:

If you would like to help support the injection of reality into local municipal conversations, Travis’ Impact Fund (TIF) is one way to do it, and throwing me a donation at my about page is another.

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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2 Responses to While Lee Enterprises Tells Its Readers About The Benefits Of Racially Segregated Housing, I’m Showing My Readers The Consequences Of Alcoholism

  1. TC says:

    Love the Lego scene but have disputes with it. There is no Fire/Medical depicted. They actually allow all those depicted to clear/move on to the next one (usually within 1/2 hr).
    Keep doing what you do – it matters!

  2. John Kevin Hunt says:

    If you deem it racist to have housing for dirt poor Native Americans, you’ve stepped into quicksand from which no one can rescue you; you’ll have to learn why you’re wrong on your own, before you slip into oblivion. Maybe you should spend some significant time on a few of our “Indian Reservations” to see the continuing injustices we perpetrate upon the descendants of those against whom we committed Holocaust-like genocide. You’ll then have plenty to write about, because you’ll see high rates of alcoholism, domestic abuse and extensive poverty. You can then write that the Tribal Councils are ignoring reality and should be incarcerating their constituents at a higher rate, with lengthier sentences.

    And I’ve zero patience with “what do you mean ‘WE?'” retorts. It’s only a couple of generations since the overt genocide. An entire culture doesn’t recover from and rise above such horrors that quickly. Moreover, generationally-transferred trauma is real.

    Yes, this (your swipe at the housing) IS an instance of a privileged white male ‘going off the reservartion’ (to use a racist, but white culturally-acceptable idiom). I’ve no problem saying so.

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