While The Youngsters Signaled Their Virtue Inside, A Woman Flying A Sign Outside City Council Signaled Danger…And She Was Right!

by Travis Mateer

I did my best to listen to the youngsters providing public comment to City Council on Monday night, but some of the commentary got so obnoxiously utopian, I finally had to leave…and I’m glad I did, because otherwise I wouldn’t have gotten a heads up on a dangerous “homeless” man in the area.

Before I get to Justus Miller, let’s hear from a utopian youngster about how AMAZING being homeless can be!

But not in Missoula–no, 15 years ago, when Tides was 19 and transient in New Hampshire, she had the most AMAZING experience that you truly have to hear to believe. Like many comments, this one is OVER the 3 minute limit, but that didn’t seem to matter much throughout the long night.

I’m glad this young woman didn’t have a negative experience when she accepted the hospitality of a homeless crew in New Hampshire, but not everyone has a tent/bed/guitar laid out for them at the end of a long day being transient.

It was comments like this one that propelled me outside, where I was a little surprised to see someone flying a sign (also known as “panhandling”) right by the doorway to City Council. Since I know this panhandler pretty well (she’s not currently homeless), I stopped to converse.

Why was she in this unusual location with a sign? Because a scary guy with a knife by the name of “Justice” was making people nervous by the Courthouse. Oh shit, I said, that guy IS scary. And fucking nuts. Sure enough, when I checked the jail roster Tuesday, I found out what Justus Miller’s latest charges are:

While I await the inevitable KGVO cut/paste article about whatever crazy shit Justus is accused of doing now, you can read about how this guy threatened hospital security with box cutters in 2012, or how he rammed Walmart shoppers with a cart, then pulled a knife when confronted, in 2018, or how he was arrested for spray-painting swastikas in 2019.

Another article about a repeat offender I’m waiting to see should provide more details about the indecent exposure Trenton Holmgren is now accused of:

I spied Trenton tweaking and dancing shirtless a few months ago downtown, during a busy market Saturday. His antics were concerning enough, since I knew his history and there lots of kid around, that I thought about calling 911, but decided against it. I knew he would be picked up again for something, because that’s what happens to someone like this in an enabling community like ours.

Maybe I’m being too harsh about Missoula and should offer a second opinion. For example, a man who died homeless recently is getting a carefully crafted story (and well timed) by the Missoulian as one the Poverello’s administrative staff attempts to navigate the Poverello’s confidentiality policy. From the link:

Stephanie Dolan, the director of development at the Poverello Center, said it’s been a tough year.

“We have recently lost a few elderly folks at the Pov, and it has been particularly hard on staff,” she explained. “One of the things that is challenging about working at the Pov is that we get close to clients, and they are important to us. However, we can’t, or shouldn’t, share any of that with the community, or friends or family because of our confidentiality policies.”

The policy is in place for a reason. But there are frustrating consequences of that policy as well.

“We understand, confidentiality policies are important because being homeless is stigmatized and it’s important to maintain the privacy of vulnerable people,” Dolan continued. “One, we can only talk about the story of homelessness through data and anecdotes. Our confidentiality policies make it difficult to humanize the stories of our clients. Two, when we lose a client, we cannot share our grief with the community. We often try to do a private memorial for staff and clients only and those are meaningful and helpful. But it’s not something we share more broadly, like ‘this is Marty and we cared a lot about him. He had a family that cared about him too. He was part of our community. He mattered.’”

The Poverello staff are dealing with dying clients because nursing homes in Montana get to be selective, and addiction treatment programs get to be selective, and even jail is being more and more selective, so people live for extended periods at the shelter, and they die there to.

But it’s not the clients INSIDE the Poverello getting all the BIG attention right now, it’s the ones living OUTSIDE, so to add perspective, here’s the Executive Director, Jill Bonny, describing a dire situation up the Kim Williams trail where apparently helpless homeless clients are drinking from the river, without food, and having medical emergencies beyond the convenient reach of first responders:

In this emotional tug-of-war, I suspect the truth exists somewhere between utopia love camp, and Ethiopia-like hunger camp, so maybe later today I’ll take a quick bike ride up the Kim Williams trail to have a look for myself.

If you appreciate what MY perspective adds to this conversation, Travis’ Impact Fund (TIF) is one way to support my work, while making a donation at my about page is another. You can even send me a check, which one kind reader did recently. Any little bit helps as I try to figure out our humble valley’s place in this rapidly changing world.

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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