Organizers of a first-of-its kind homeless shelter in Missoula held a public question and answer session Wednesday, and heard from supporters and skeptics alike.
The shelter is designed to house up to 40 people on Missoula’s south side.
Missoula’s Temporary Safe Outdoor Space is located on private property along Highway 93. It’s a response to pandemic-related limited capacity at permanent local shelters.
The project is a partnership between Hope Rescue Mission and United Way of Missoula County.
"The site has opened. There are approximately 15 people there now," says United Way CEO, Susan Hay Patrick.
It features regular COVID testing, sanitation services, winter-ready tents perched atop insulated platforms, as well as case management services.
During Wednesday’s online update and forum the project earned praise from several Missoulians, including Megan Locke.
"I just wanted to say what a blessing this is to the community, and that I recognize all of your extremely hard work."
Grace Roster lives on land directly behind the encampment, and wants to know more about her family’s new neighbors.
"Forty people is a lot of people. I would really appreciate knowing if there will be any sexual offenders or violent criminals living next door."
Hope Rescue Mission Executive Director, Jim Hicks says, "The intake process for people we don't know will include that kind of vetting. But right now, there are no violent or sexual offenders on site."
Missoulian Christa Weathers cautions against villainizing homelessness.
"I live in central Missoula. I recently did a scan of my neighborhood and I’m surrounded by registered violent and sexual offenders with addresses attached to their names. Just a reminder that being homeless is not a crime."
Missoula’s Temporary Safe Outdoor Space will provide shelter for people without housing through the end of March.