MISSOULA – The temperatures have been dipping into the negatives and the next couple days don’t show much relief.
The mercury is expected to stay below the freezing line, so the Missoula City Council, ASUM and Mountain Line Transit have collaborated to help the homeless population get through the cold spell.
The Mountain Line transit center at Ryman and Pine streets in downtown Missoula will remain open until 10 p.m., rather than it’s usual 5 p.m. closing time.
The transit service will also be providing transportation services directly to the Salvation Army shelter on Russell Street.
The extended hours and direct route to the shelter are part of a plan to help the homeless population commute and stay warm during this cold snap.
In the past, there would be a gap between 5 p.m. — when the buses stop running — and 10 p.m. when the shelter opened, leaving people with the potential of being in the cold for five hours.
Missoula City Council President Bryan Von Lossberg says the new plans can be largely attributed to the community.
“It’s a direct result of folks coming down, highlighting this gap in the time and folks on [the] council, and administration, and in the community caring about it and trying to close that gap.”
City staff are still working to enlist volunteers and the faith community to staff the Transit Center during the evenings and the Missoula Police Department will provide police services at the transit center.
“Local government works hard to provide solutions for every citizen of Missoula,” Mayor John Engen said. “It’s a mark of a compassionate community to look out for the least fortunate among us. This was simply the right thing to do.”
ASUM will be involved as well, providing their university buses for service on the weekends. The extended hours are expected to last for about two weeks.
-Jack Ginsburg reporting for MTN News