Is The Johnson Street Facility In Missoula Going To Be A Shelter, Or Ticking Time Bomb?

by Travis Mateer

Yes, you are looking at picture of poop. Is it human feces or animal feces? The answer to that question doesn’t really matter because WHERE this poop was pictured is the problem, not what kind of asshole it came out of.

The re-opening of the Johnson Street homeless shelter has locals in the area VERY upset, so an open house was recently provided to try and alleviate some of those neighborhood concerns. Well, it didn’t work, and one reason it didn’t work is because no one at the Poverello Center bothered to pick up literal shit before giving the community a tour.

I got these images from someone who took that tour, and it’s not just the picture that are disturbing. Here’s some of the written content that I found quite troubling (emphasis mine):

This open house presumably would be put on so that the community can learn how the shelter would be run and reassure them that they have the capabilities needed to run it.  Here is what I saw when I toured the building”

Less than two thirds of the required storage lockers none of them with doors or ability to be locked.  

The email points out the lack of appropriate storage appears to be a potential code violation, but this is what happened when the person who was taking this tour brought it up (emphasis mine):

When I read the zoning for an emergency shelter ( 20.40.045 – Emergency Homeless Shelter) There are a number of common sense requirements.   Item C.Design requires locking storage lockers so that folks who are experiencing homelessness can sleep as soundly as possible with some expectation that  their personal effects will  still be present when they awaken in the morning.  (1.Storage Lockers—Provide one locker with a minimum of nine cubic feet of storage space with lock per bed.)

When I brought up the fact that there were no temperature controlled indoor locking cabinets that guests could use I was met with the argument of “how do you know that that is what they need to feel secure“?  I was speechless that someone would excuse a code deficiency with the argument trivializes the value of a person’s meager belongings.

This point about NOT having a place to safely secure belongings is very important, and I say that after having spoken to someone who had some CRITICAL belongings stolen from him while staying at this facility, including a cell phone, which he had just purchased, and which was stolen FROM HIS POCKET while he slept at Johnson Street.

So, Poverello Staff, including Executive Director, Jill Bonney, THAT IS HOW I KNOW the client I talked to NEEDED locked storage to feel secure, and since his belongings were NOT secure, they were stolen. This is not fucking rocket science.

The final alarming image has got to be some kind of safety violation. Here it is:

Um, what? Is it really necessary to PADLOCK this door? And what about the historical reference to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factor fire? I wasn’t familiar with this reference, so I looked it up. Here’s some context from Wikipedia (emphasis mine):

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City, on Saturday, March 25, 1911, was the deadliest industrial disaster in the history of the city, and one of the deadliest in U.S. history.[1] The fire caused the deaths of 146 garment workers – 123 women and girls and 23 men[2] – who died from the fire, smoke inhalation, falling, or jumping to their deaths. Most of the victims were recent Italian or Jewish immigrant women and girls aged 14 to 23;[3][4] of the victims whose ages are known, the oldest victim was 43-year-old Providenza Panno, and the youngest were 14-year-olds Kate Leone and Rosaria “Sara” Maltese.[5]

The factory was located on the 8th, 9th, and 10th floors of the Asch Building, which had been built in 1901. Later renamed the “Brown Building”, it still stands at 23–29 Washington Place near Washington Square Park, on the New York University (NYU) campus.[6] The building has been designated a National Historic Landmark and a New York City landmark.[7]

Because the doors to the stairwells and exits were locked[1][8] – a common practice at the time to prevent workers from taking unauthorized breaks and to reduce theft[9] – many of the workers could not escape from the burning building and jumped from the high windows. The fire led to legislation requiring improved factory safety standards and helped spur the growth of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union (ILGWU), which fought for better working conditions for sweatshop workers.

It’s kind of shocking that a tour of a facility that’s getting so much public scrutiny would be conducted in a manner that creates MORE concern, not less, but that appears to be wha happened. That is why I’m leaning toward TICKING TIME BOMB versus this being an actual shelter with the appropriate physical space, policies, and staffing that the clients who will be using it desperately need.

Do I need to remind readers that Sean Stevenson DIED after being ATTACKED inside the main facility run by the Poverello Center over three years ago? And do I need to remind readers that a significant factor in that death was the policy of “harm reduction” that allowed clients to be drunk and high in parts of the building with no staff around?

I called Jill Bonney weeks ago to ask a very simple question about the death of Sean Stevenson: how many people were in the men’s dorm on January 3rd, 2020, BEFORE check-in? I never got a response, but that’s not going to stop me from getting answers.

Tomorrow I have a very important post about the circumstances of Sean Stevenson’s arrival in Montana, including an image of the woman Sean came to Montana with. I think this could be an important part of understanding what happened to Sean, and why.

Missoula’s homeless infrastructure is neither adequate, or safe, for what it’s trying to accomplish, but that isn’t stopping our elected leaders and influencers from trying to placate the public while strategically ignoring their VERY valid concerns.

If the Poverello Center, and a certain Mayor who was a board member with my former employer, don’t wake the fuck up to what’s happening, and soon, more people are going to get hurt and killed. I want to be wrong about that, but my seven years of experience working with this population tells me I’m not.

Since no one in local media can explain what’s happening with the Homeless Industrial Complex like I can, please consider making a financial donation TODAY! You can end a month-long financial drought by supporting Travis’ Impact Fund (TIF), or 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
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Is The Johnson Street Facility In Missoula Going To Be A Shelter, Or Ticking Time Bomb?

  1. John Kevin Hunt says:

    Hi, Travis —

    I went down to the open house last evening, and was quite surprised that only a handful of neighborhood residents were there. I don’t think I saw more than five in the course of an hour. One of them may have been the source of your photos; in the minutes just before closing, a tall, bald guy who know what he was talking about, was firmly pointing out to Ms. Bonny, et al that the padlocked door you mention, still had a big red illiumating EXIT sign over it! The response was that the Fire Dept. had done a walk-through and purportedly told Pov staff that everything was OK. There clearly is more to learn than has been disclosed. The floor plan of the facility, combined with now having only one, relatively narrow exit (opposite the end with the fake exit and padlocked doors), is indeed, to anyone with a modicum of fire safety training, recognized as disaster waiting to happen. A panic-induced stampede could easily occur that injured and killed sjleter residents, even if flames and smoke did not. I envisioned a catastrophe like the Feb. 20, 2003 Station Nighclub Fire tragedy that killed 100 people and injured many more when pyrotechnics used as stage effects by the band Great White ignited a fire. I am examining my video now to look for fire extinguishers, as I don’t recall seeing any. I am not opposed to reopening that facility for a year, but I am very opposed to doing so with such glaring safety violations. I’ll be trying to track down the date of that “walk-through” inspection, who conducted it, and any paperwork that was completed and/or issued as a result of it. These photos should be displayed at the next City Council meeting. Thank you very much for sharing them.

    — J. Kevin

Leave a Reply