MISSOULA — The city of Missoula and Missoula County developed “Reaching Home: Missoula’s 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness” at the beginning of 2012.
It's a crisis that can't be solved overnight, but through initiatives and programs here and there, along with a host of community support, it's a crisis Missoula is tackling.
“We are really aiming towards homelessness being an experience that's rare, brief, and one time only,” said Reaching Home program manager Emily Armstrong.
During the Reaching Home annual update, Armstrong reminded a virtual audience of the complexities of homelessness.
“There are many reasons that an individual may become houseless,” said Armstrong, “It is not a moral failing, it is a symptom of the failure of our systems.”
Looking around Missoula, you can see this harsh reality play out as urban campers flock to the Poverello Center, live in tents off highway 93, or spend their days on the lawn of the courthouse.
It’s a scenario that most cannot relate to -- but one that could happen to anyone.
“They're humans like you and me, they’re sons and daughters and they’re moms and dads, you know, they have hopes and dreams, they have a background and a story,” said panelist Ashley Corbally.
Recognizing the vast number of Missoulians experiencing homelessness, Armstrong noted that there’s still a way to go, but we can also take note of how far the city has come -- especially as Missoula nears the end of the 10-year plan. The list of “wins” in the last year alone indicates the direction Missoula is headed.
Rattling off some of the progress the initiative has seen in the last year, Armstrong said, “The YWCA and the Missoula Interfaith Collaborative opened the Meadowlark for families and domestic violence survivors, the emergency winter shelter operated by the Poverello Center has served 509 individuals this year, and the non-congregate shelter that we brought up for a COVID-19 response, that space served 283 individuals so far, it's actually currently still open.”
The list goes on, including the implementation of the Temporary Safe Outdoor Space, additional agencies signing on to streamline access to Missoula’s housing resources, and case conferencing to address needs for individuals experiencing homelessness.
These programs are a testament to the magnitude of the crisis -- and the community effort to end it. As of right now, there is no directive to create a new plan once this one expires in 2022. For now, Armstrong said the city will focus on sustaining what has worked and evaluating the gaps that still exist in the system.