Safety concerns prompt changes as Missoula homeless shelter

Posted at 9:38 AM, Aug 09, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-09 11:38:36-04

MISSOULA – The director of a Missoula’s largest homeless shelter says their decision to put a cap on how many people the facility can hold a night is driven by safety concerns as well as a desire to house people permanently.

A lottery is now in place to decide who will be permitted to stay overnight at the Poverello Center.

“That lottery will be drawn every day around 2 p.m., and then we’ll post that information in the afternoon for folks, so they’ll know and have time to plan for a place to stay that night," explained Poverello Center Executive Director Amy Allison Thompson.

The available beds at the Poverello Center are capped at 150 for the summer, and Thompson says that’s roughly how many are utilizing the shelter now. The cap is driven by safety concerns and a drive to house people more permanently.

Several groups are excluded from the lottery including members of a medical respite and volunteer program, veterans and those involved with the center’s shelter program that actively works toward a permanent housing solution.

MTN News spoke with one of the clients outside the Poverello Center who said that they got on the shelter assistance program and it helps — but it doesn’t solve all of their problems. It’s still very difficult to find a place to stay in Missoula.

“What we’re telling folks is really just encouraging them to work with staff on a regular basis. If you’re working with staff on a regular basis and doing what we’re calling progress reports, you are able to secure a bed on a regular basis and get back on your feet," Allison Thompson said.

The Poverello Center is a partner in the multi-agency coordinated entry system that is working to find long-term housing solutions for Missoula’s homeless population.

It becomes even more dangerous to live outside in the winter as temperatures go down and Allison Thompson said they plan to add 25 more beds as the seasons change. 

Staff at the Poverello Center say they will make some exceptions to the lottery in extreme situations.