Creating Unsafe Situations For Those Who Lack Appropriate Housing

by Travis Mateer

The Poverello Center opened its new location during the winter of 2014, six years after I started working at the original location, which was in Downtown Missoula, on Ryman Street. The picture above shows the new building in the process of being built where it now stands, on 1110 West Broadway.

This stretch of Broadway was already a bit controversial due to something called the Broadway road diet, which converted this 4 lane gateway into Missoula to 3 lanes. The time frame for this conversion coincided with the beginning of John Engen’s tenure as Mayor in 2006, and the way it was handled, in hindsight, was an indication of things to come under Engen.

What do I mean? I mean Engen placated public opinion with disingenuous support for RETURNING the diet to its original 4 lane configuration while the city moved ahead with making the changes permanent. From the link (emphasis mine):

Missoula Mayor John Engen continues to promote returning West Broadway between Orange and Russell streets to a four-lane roadway at the same time construction continues to make the section a more permanent-looking three-lane configuration.

The Missoula Downtown Association and the Missoula Chamber of Commerce are attempting to support the mayor’s notion with citizen backing by circulating a petition to put the issue on the November ballot.

The two organizations are attempting to gather 12,500 valid signatures by Aug. 15 from city residents who are registered voters. To make sure they have enough the actual goal is 15,000.

About 18 months ago the MDA gathered 4,000 signatures opposing the conversion to a three-lane roadway but pulled back when it appeared negotiations might help avoid the change. MDA vice president for advocacy Rod Austin said city officials had told the MDA if the organization was opposed to the diet it would be shelved. But before they knew it the three-lane option had come back as a done deal.

Yep, sounds about right, and after 17 years the road diet is STILL in effect, and the new Poverello Center is one reason why.

It was VERY contentious to relocate western Montana’s largest emergency shelter and soup kitchen, and without the work of the National Building Coalition Institute, I’m not sure our Missoula community would have accepted putting a shelter on a busy road that brings visitors from the west into the heart of our downtown.

Here’s a little summary about the work NCBI did, and who funded it:

The City of Missoula, with support from United Way of Missoula County, contracted with NCBI in June 2011 to coordinate a community process regarding the Poverello Designed in response to the overwhelming outcry from Westside neighbors and others asking to be included in the site selection process, the overall purpose of this project was to create a constructive way for large numbers of community members with diverse interests to engage in meaningful dialogue with the Poverello Center and -making. The New Facility Community Process had four phases: 1) Assessment, 2) Community Meeting #1, 3) Working Group, and 4) Community Meeting #2. Amie Thurber, Director of NCBI Missoula, facilitated the process, with direction and oversight from a planning team established by Mayor Engen.

As a staff member of the Pov, I was very involved in this NCBI process, attending all the community forum meetings and advocating with community members for the dire need for a new facility. Like I said in comments yesterday, the downtown shelter was operating OVER CAPACITY in terms of how many people were being served in that Ryman location, but this was allowed by the Fire Chief because the alternative was more people dying on the streets from exposure, which was a seasonal reality.

Well, what about dying on the street because the homeless shelter is next to a busy road where a beautiful river on the other side of the street draws anyone, including homeless clients, to enjoy a nice stroll to a shady location where booze, meth, or fentanyl can be consumed.

The woman pictured above was involuntarily committed to a local psychiatric unit, with the help of my testimony, because she thought she was invisible, thus impervious to traffic, and would therefore regularly just walk into the street, forcing vehicles to stop. The judge in the hearing had actually almost hit this woman herself, so she recused herself and another judge came in to finish the hearing.

Since leaving my job at the shelter, I’ve had to slam on my brakes at least a half-dozen times while driving this stretch of Broadway as people simply don’t seem to care, or even recognize the danger, of walking into traffic, so it was just a matter of time before this happened. From the link:

Missoula Police officers were on scene at a fatal pedestrian versus vehicle collision in front of the Poverello Center on Wednesday night.

An officer on scene said a young man, roughly in his 30s died. The driver of the suspect car was being cooperative with the investigation, and police were working to determine if impairment was a factor.

Was impairment a factor? Quite possibly, but knowing how often the usually benign infraction of jaywalking is carried out by clients of the shelter in this area, I suspect the impairment of the PEDESTRIAN was a more significant factor than whatever state of mind the motorist was in.

Earlier in the day my comment at the housing committee warned that creating unsafe situations with allowing drug and alcohol use would lead to fatal outcomes, like what happened to Sean Stevenson INSIDE the Poverello Center on January 3rd, 2020.

I didn’t expect my warning to come to fruition in less than 12 hours, so maybe I should be more cautious when invoking Cassandra and claiming I don’t intend to play this role in our community because, well, it didn’t work out so well for Cassandra.

Cassandra was given the gift of prophecy, but was also cursed by the god Apollo so that her true prophecies would not be believed. Many versions of the myth relate that she incurred the god’s wrath by refusing him sexual favours after promising herself to him in exchange for the power of prophecy.

Interesting. I didn’t realize Cassandra’s curse derived from not putting out for a god. Also, before she was killed, Cassandra had twins.

Once Troy had fallen, Cassandra was taken as a pallake (concubine) by King Agamemnon of Mycenae. While he was away at war, Agamemnon’s wife, Clytemnestra, had taken Aegisthus as her lover. Cassandra and Agamemnon were later killed by either Clytemnestra or Aegisthus. Various sources state that Cassandra and Agamemnon had twin boys, Teledamus and Pelops, who were murdered by Aegisthus.

I know, maybe what we need is to give MORE MONEY to the HIC (Homeless Industrial Complex) so they can hire more consultants and do some more master planning, with this latest predictable casualty functioning as an opportunity to exploit community heart-strings for some donations and/or timely victim-shielding from public criticism.

If you’re tired of how human lives are being exploited by our Homeless Industrial Complex, then consider 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 Creating Unsafe Situations For Those Who Lack Appropriate Housing

  1. Jay Putman says:

    From Washington Examiner:
    Seattle pulls the plug on initiative to end homelessness two years after it began

    The Partnership for Zero, a heavily promoted public-private partnership with the mission of ending unsheltered homelessness in downtown Seattle, was formed. People who had been homeless were hired to do outreach and were given case management responsibilities. The goal was to decrease the number of people living on Seattle’s streets to under 30. On any given night, about 1,000 people still call the streets of Seattle home.

    Two years after it was formed, the King County Regional Homelessness Authority, or KCRHA, announced it was pulling the plug on the pilot program, citing funding problems.

    The decision to shutter the plan has also put nearly 40 people who had been homeless at risk of losing their jobs. It has also upset business leaders and city and state officials who were told the program would finally begin to make a dent in the city’s homelessness problem.

Leave a Reply