Montana Public Radio

Missoula Plans Winter Homeless Shelter To House 150 People

Oct 21, 2020

Missoula has updated its Emergency Winter Shelter Plan for the homeless with a new temporary location to house 150 people. 

Like everything else this year, COVID-19 has complicated the city’s winter plans to bring people in from the cold.

For the past two years Missoula’s Poverello Center teamed up with The Salvation Army to provide winter shelter for the homeless. Under normal circumstances the Salvation Army would be able to shelter about 30 people during a cold snap, but the agency opted out of the partnership for this winter. 

The Poverello could normally handle a maximum of 175 people. But according to Executive Director Amy Allison Thompson, “Right now we’re only sleeping 88. That is so we’re able to provide six feet of distance in between all folks that are using our spaces."

That means the city and its partners — the county and the homeless shelter — had to find new emergency winter shelter arrangements.

This year’s additional location will be at the Johnson Street Community Center, a former warehouse at 1919 North Avenue West. 

Thompson says it will follow strict Centers for Disease Control and Prevention health and safety guidelines. Officials plan to provide daily sack lunches at a minimum and hope to offer one warm meal a day.

The new shelter is being funded with $340,000 in federal funds and $50,000 each from the city and county. 

Poverello’s Amy Allison Thompson says both shelters will operate under what are called "Low Barrier" rules.

"‘Low Barrier,’ meaning that folks are welcome to be on site as long as their behavior is OK, and not based on sobriety."

The 24 hour Johnson Street Shelter will operate from November 1 through March 31. 

Missoula’s announcement comes as the National Weather Service is predicting a record-shattering wintery cold front that could bring snow, wind and bitter cold temperatures to the region by week’s end. 

The Salvation Army has agreed to provide temporary emergency shelter this weekend only from 8 p.m. to 7 a.m.