Missoula County Coverage

Aug 12, 2013 10:00 PM by Jacquelien Quynh - KPAX News

Union Gospel Mission move faces criticism

MISSOULA - Plans to move the Union Gospel Mission from downtown, to the Westside neighborhood may not be facing any legal opposition, but it's being met with a lot of criticism. Since plans of the move surfaced, opposition has been growing.

Neighbors have been searching for outlets to stop this move, with some even reaching out to the city council. But the city says it has no say over the matter. And now residents are looking to talk directly with the Mission.

"We are moving away from a neighborhood that has a park, that has the railroad bridges behind us, the pedestrian bridge, that has the railroad itself that has all the possibilities of hiding there," said Candace Day, Executive Director of the Union Gospel Mission.

The Mission says they're surprised by the publicity that this situation has been garnering.

"There have been a lot of posters placed around town, saying that we are moving into your neighborhood and they've been placed as far away as Playfair Park, the U District, the 400 block of South 6th Street," said Day.

They tell us they are in the process of finding a neutral facilitator and asking for patience. But, in the meantime, neighbors are unifying. Some residents believe the move is not yet, a done deal.

"It's a correct statement to say that zoning will not prevent them from coming in, but whether or not Missoula has the zoning laws to address the type of impact that a soup kitchen has on a neighborhood, that's an entirely different story," Jeremy Smith said.

Jeremy Smith, a vocal opponent of the planned move, says neighbors are forming a coalition that plans to seek legal counsel. He says the mission hasn't been returning calls, and wants it to do more.

"I have a concern with the alley ways and darker ways serving as toilets, and also for my family, we have a little bit of a public safety concern," Smith said.

The mission says it's planning to hold several meetings in the upcoming months.

"We definitely are planning community meetings, we will likely meet with a small group of neighbor immediately, to find out more their concerns so that we can be better prepared to answer questions.

At this point the mission did not give us a time frame for when they would have those meetings, saying that they are still working on the layout of the facility," said Day.

The mission also says it's narrowed down its list of facilitator to, two people, and is expected to make that announcement shortly.

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