If I’m Not A Part Of Your Homeless Plan Then Your Homeless Plan Is To Control, Not Solve

by Travis Mateer

In last Sunday’s weekly review I highlighted my extreme frustration at the insinuation that operating without an END HOMELESSNESS plan is hampering our local officials. I see this as a great opportunity for all the expertise I’ve acquired over the past decade working in the non-profit sector, with 7 of those years at the Poverello Center, but here’s the question: will I be allowed to dance, or do I need to find myself a Patrick Swayze to give me access to the dance floor?

The dance floor is actually a labyrinth controlled by bureaucrats, so perhaps being trapped in a corner is the more appropriate place for me to be. The feeling of being trapped in a place you can’t escape from is what many Veterans are experiencing in LA, America’s premier mecca for homelessness and money wasted to solve it.

I’d like to thank commenter Mrs. Stitch for providing this link to the insanity of building 120 subsidized housing units in LA for Veterans, then only filling less than half because…well, the “because” is what the article tries to answer, but without much success.

From the link:

Yep, “par for the course” is about right, and there’s virtually nothing Missoula officials can do about it other than beg someone like Senator Tester to do some PR work to grease a few wheels to loosen a few cogs–cogs that will inevitably seize up again when the eye of political influence moves to something else shiny and/or politically threatening to the gravy-grift in DC.

When I was the coordinator of the Homeless Outreach Program, I navigated this labyrinth like a multi-modal wild-card, walking/biking/driving around this valley to get shit done for clients. When I worked my magic, and clients STILL sabotaged a successful placement, it was more than maddening…it led to significant burnout and an acute awareness of how fucked the overlapping systems are.

Before I tell a story about how one client literally shit the bed to sabotage his housing, I want to note a not-so-secret secret about WHY Missoula claims it needs ANOTHER year-round shelter. For the official claim, here’s Gomer’s Missoula Current doing the explaining for the Homeless Industrial Complex (HIC).

From the link (emphasis mine):

While it once served as a winter shelter, the Johnson Street facility will open year-round this fall, with operating costs of around $1.2 million. But maintaining the shelter over the long term – and at that location – hasn’t been vetted by City Council, and residents in the surrounding neighborhood haven’t had a chance to weigh in.

Recommendations to open the shelter came from a strategy group comprised of homeless advocates.

“The primary recommendation is that we work to reopen the Johnson Street shelter on a year-round basis as soon as possible while we continue on a parallel track to identify a plan to open a permanent year-round shelter to supplement our shelter options in Missoula,” said Eran Pehan, the city’s director of housing and planning.

If there’s someone in city government who knows how fucking idiotic this whole system is, it’s Eran Pehan, a very competent behind-the-scenes operator who once worked at the Pov’s family shelter program called The Joseph Residence.

In fact, I got one of my best anecdotal stories from Eran about a father who had to turn down a raise at a local lighting store because it put him over “income threshold limits” for support programs. The dad literally COULD NOT AFFORD a raise.

What would that do to YOUR sense of manhood, fathers out there?

The problem Eran is tasked with addressing, which includes coordinating with different bureaucracies she’s in more direct influence over now (but not by much), is that she’s facing NOT just a money problem, but a political problem as well, and the politics of this bullshit will only disgorge funding to certain organizations if it can CONTROL what it’s throwing money at, and that includes controlling the narrative.

Unfortunately for Pehan, and the cogs she has to herd like cats, I never stopped being a wild-card. Even worse (for them), there are other wild-cards giving me puzzle pieces behind-the-scenes, which I can safely say is why drugs and human trafficking going on INSIDE the Authorized Camping Site is now being openly acknowledged and even including in PR pieces, like Gomer’s. Here’s more from the Missoula Current article (emphasis mine):

The defunct authorized camp site has been highlighted as a reason to vet a plan before implementation. The former camp been dubbed a failed model for a number of reasons.

Among them, Missoula’s non-profit partners didn’t want to manage the camp, and they also struggled to secure the required staffing. The camp also became a source of human trafficking and drug use, and it posed other health and safety risks, city staff has said.

“It’s a non-starter if we don’t have a provider in our community who is able and interested in taking something like that on,” Armstrong said. “We’ve seen what happens when we don’t have that kind of structure.”

Ok, this is good. Admitting you have a problem is an important step if you want to SOLVE that problem, and I say that as someone who has identified SEVERAL problems in how I have conducted my own life, starting with my habit of downing a BIG box of wine every few days, until three years ago, when I declared NO MORE on July 4th. And here’s a big reason why:

Sean Stevenson pictured with Selma Hayek during the filming of Dogma

I put in my notice to leave the non-profit sector on the EXACT DAY Sean Stevenson was assaulted INSIDE the Poverello Center by another man of color, who is ALSO dead. Why are these two men dead? That’s what I’ve spent the last three years trying to figure out, and the synchrmniticies pointing to deeper layers have become nearly too incredible to believe.

I have said this in public comments, and I’ll say it again, there needs to be an accounting of the DEATH experiences with the “houseless” population in Missoula, and that accounting needs to be represented as a priority in the next plan to allegedly solve the homeless problem.

I can help. My dancing shoes are ready. But it’s kind of hard to dance when you’re just standing around TALKING about the problem.

What none of these people will tell you about Missoula’s FIRST year-round shelter, the Poverello Center, is how many of its clients have become de facto long-term residents because there isn’t enough of the type of available housing needed for the various populations being served by the Pov, like people who need nursing homes instead of a homeless shelter.

But what do you do when even THOSE people do things like access porn and shit the bed within 48 hours of getting a coveted bed in an assisted living facility? That’s what I had one client do because he did NOT want to be in a facility like that, he wanted to drink on the streets with his “friends”. So he checked out some porn on the facility computer, then took off his adult diaper to PURPOSEFULLY soil the sheets in the shittiest act of self-sabotage I’ve ever had to deal with.

If you don’t think a former service provider with experience like that should help inform Missoula’s next plan to address homelessness, then I don’t know what else to say.

Right now my local efforts are being assisted by financially-squeezed Missoulians who see the value in doing what I’m doing, so they’ve pitched in (some of you more than once!!!) by supporting Travis’ Impact Fund (TIF), or they’ve used the donation button at my about page, or they’ve sent a check, or information, or just words of encouragement, and it is ALL deeply appreciated!

My eyes remain peeled to the local happenings developing beneath this meta-web we’re all caught up in, so stay tuned for more as the summer thermostat gets cookin’.

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
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply