Missoula Temporary Safe Outdoor Space: Frequently Asked Questions
Missoula’s Temporary SOS is located on a parcel of privately owned land north of Highway 93 between Buckhouse Bridge and Blue Mountain Road. The private property is leased to Hope Rescue Mission for $1.
Missoula TSOS will include the following facilities and services:
- 20 two-person tents (spaced for social distancing), bathroom facilities, handwashing, trash removal, food, and access to showers and laundry
- Outreach workers, case management, safety precautions
- Wellness screenings and links to hotels, housing and health care services
- Personal protective equipment (masks, gloves) and cleaning supplies
For health and safety reasons, no local providers of shelter, food or services are operating at full capacity during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many unhoused people are living on the streets or in their vehicles, which is not safe during a Montana winter. Many of those individuals have served our country and are veterans of the U.S. military. A number of them are currently living in unsafe environments, including the encampment off Reserve Street. There are increased reports of people camping in local neighborhoods. These locations lack access to trash removal or bathrooms and pose an environmental, health and safety hazard for those who are camping, as well as the community. Having a safe, legal, secure environment with health precautions and links to services reduces the demands on emergency responders and the healthcare system and results in better outcomes for everyone.
Missoula TSOS is a legal, staffed, secure site on private land with appropriate resources, including social services. It will operate as a partnership between United Way of Missoula County and Hope Rescue Mission with logistical support from the Missoula County Office of Emergency Management. The effort is also supported by other nonprofits, the faith community, law enforcement and other first responders, Reaching Home: Missoula’s 10-Year Plan to End homelessness, and private businesses.
The TSOS is considered a “low-barrier” site, and participation is behavior-based. All participants will be required to initial and sign a written agreement – both when they enter initially, and whenever they come and go from the site – that includes behavioral expectations, rights and responsibilities. Only approved participants in TSOS are allowed on the property, with a No Trespassing policy posted and enforced.
Pre-opening logistics are being directed by United Way of Missoula County and supported by Missoula County’s Office of Emergency Management. Hope Rescue Mission will provide case management, and members of the local faith community — mainly River of Life and Cornerstone churches — will provide outreach, with the goal of linking TSOS participants to services, including long-term housing.
The costs to set up the TSOS will be fully reimbursed through federal CARES Act funding, so no local property taxpayer dollars will be used. Community partners involved in establishing the TSOS are actively seeking additional funding to sustain the site through the winter.
The county declared a state of emergency and activated its emergency operations plan in response to COVID-19 in March. Under that plan, the county has an obligation to address the immediate health and safety needs of our population, which includes people experiencing homelessness. The emergency operations plan directs staff to work with other agencies and community partners as needed to meet this obligation, which is how the county formed partnerships with the private landowner and partner agencies on this project. The Missoula County Office of Emergency Management and Public Works have performed some work up front to prepare the site, which also falls under the scope of the emergency declaration, and the cost of which will be reimbursed with CARES Act funds.
Missoula County commissioners determined during a Dec. 17 public hearing that interim zoning is not necessary for this property since using it for this purpose is allowed under the COVID-19 emergency proclamation currently in place. Under the emergency proclamation, the county has an obligation to address the immediate health and safety needs of our population, which includes people experiencing homelessness. The emergency operations plan directs staff to work with other agencies and community partners as needed to meet this obligation.
The Temporary Safe Outdoor Space is a temporary, safe, healthy, secure, staffed (24/7) environment on private land that will serve – with dignity – approximately 40 people experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic who are not accessing existing services or resources. It will provide a more structured environment and more resources than the current unregulated encampment near Reserve Street, which has posed environmental, health and safety hazards, and it will be staffed by the Hope Rescue Mission. It is an outdoor shelter with 20 campsites with tents each on a platform spaced 12 feet apart.
The Johnson Street emergency winter shelter is a temporary indoor shelter located at the Johnson Street Community Center set up by the City of Missoula and funded mainly with federal COVID-19 relief funds and financial contributions from the City and Missoula County. The Poverello Center staffs and operates the shelter through a contract with the City. This site has capacity for 150 people.
Under the emergency declaration adopted to address COVID-19, the county has an obligation to address the immediate health and safety needs of our population, which includes people experiencing homelessness. The emergency operations plan directs staff to work with other agencies and community partners as needed to meet this obligation, which is how the county is able to move forward with setting up the TSOS. Commissioners determined at a Dec. 17 public hearing that this use is allowed under the emergency declaration and interim zoning is not required at this time.
The Sleepy Inn is an approved Non-Congregant Shelter (NCS) reimbursable through FEMA public assistance. NCS has a very acute and specific purpose under federal guidelines that prohibit use beyond providing isolation and quarantine to individuals under a health officer order. It cannot be used for housing the homeless under those guidelines. The Sleepy Inn is not just sitting there — it has routinely been at or exceeding capacity several times in the last month; 165 unique individuals have stayed there since March.
The goal is for the TSOS to minimally affect the surrounding property owners, if at all. Hope Rescue Mission will fully staff and operate the shelter 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to provide a more structured environment and more resources than the current unregulated encampment near Reserve Street, which has posed environmental, health and safety hazards. The on-site manager will make sure to address any safety concerns that arise, as well as trash removal and other sanitation and wellness services. Organizers hope these measures will minimize the impact on neighboring landowners and are committed to quickly addressing any issues that do arise. Call 9-1-1 though to report a crime or medical emergency in progress.
This site will be staffed by Hope Rescue Mission 24 hours a day, seven days a week. An on-site manager will address any safety concerns that arise. Call 9-1-1 though to report a crime or medical emergency in progress.
Sanitary services include weekly trash removal and temporary bathroom facilities. All trash will be containerized, and the bathroom facilities will be adequate and regularly maintained to support the intended number of users. The Missoula-City County Health Department has reviewed plans for the site and determined it complies with state and local health regulations. The Air Quality Control Program does not require paving the road to the site at this time.
Organizations or individuals wishing to assist with Missoula TSOS should call April Seat, Director of Outreach at Hope Rescue Mission, at 760-628-4875 or Ashley Corbally at 406-396-3653.
TSOS partners greatly appreciate donations and ask that you email the TSOS at email@example.com if you are interested in donating. Please do not bring donations to the TSOS site. Items that are most helpful at this time include $10 Visa gift cards, propane or gift cards for Axmen Propane, and propane cookstoves. Financial donations to Hope Rescue Mission for ongoing operational needs are also greatly appreciated. Financial donations can be made online at www.hopemontana.org, by check or by texting STAYSAFE to 41444.
United Way: Eric Levgold, Director of Impact, firstname.lastname@example.org
Hope Rescue Mission: email@example.com
Missoula County: Commissioners’ Office, firstname.lastname@example.org, 406-258-4877.
Messages left will be heard by the commissioners and considered part of public comment. If you specifically wish to receive a callback from the Commission, please indicate that in your message and leave a callback number and they will attempt to return your call.