MISSOULA — A handful of grants stemming from the CARES Act could help advance Missoula’s housing efforts, including transitional housing for homeless veterans and protecting a handful of mobile home properties from redevelopment.
The grants must be used to “prevent, prepare and respond” to COVID-19, and 70% of the funding must go to benefit low- to moderate-income earners. Missoula, Great Falls and Billings are eligible for roughly $6.2 million of the total funding, which amounts to $10.1 million.
Montana James said the city intends to apply for three specific grants if the City Council gives approval. The first grant would seek around $1 million for the Poverello Center to aid its homeless veterans' program.
More specifically, the funding would be added to another grant received by the shelter and combined with $2.5 million in American Rescue Plan funding committed by the city and county to help purchase and renovate a downtown hotel located near the shelter.
Doing so would create 20 single occupancy rooms to serve as transitional housing for homeless veterans, along with as many as 15 voucher-based supportive housing units.
“It would greatly expand the capacity for emergency shelter and medical respite programs,” said James, who heads the city’s community development program. “Providing access to safe and stable housing helps stop the spread of COVID-19. Houseless individuals in the community are much more at risk of contracting the virus.”
The Poverello has long assisted homeless veterans and is equipped to shelter several individuals in single-occupancy rooms at its shelter. However, the shelter doesn’t have the capacity to house them all, and the Department of Veterans Affairs is moving toward requiring homeless veterans to have single-occupancy rooms to aid in their transition to stable housing.
“The VA made a move to having their veterans in transitional housing programs in rooms that are single occupancy,” said Jill Bonny, executive director of the Poverello. “We’ve done this with our current program by placing any overflow, once all our single occupancy rooms are full, into hotels, which has gotten pretty spendy. We feel this will keep us competitive with our VA programs moving forward.”
The second grant would seek around $1.3 million for NeighborWorks to aid its Resident Owned Communities program. That effort helps create permanently affordable housing for low- and moderate-income residents by preserving manufactured home communities.
The funding would also help NeighborWorks acquire and preserve at least 20 homes in Missoula. In recent years, manufactured home communities have been redeveloped, and others are at risk of following suit.
Daniel Maiden, a program manager at NeighborWorks, said the organization has several properties in mind if were to win the grant.
“Right now we are looking at a particular property within city limits,” she said. “Depending on the timeline, if we’re unable to use it, we’d like to use it on a different property for acquisition purposes.”
The third grant considered for application would fund the transformation of Downtown Lions Park into a hub that supports “community pride and activity,” city officials said. The surrounding neighborhood includes 9,000 residents, with 30% of them living in poverty.
More than 8% of the neighborhood is non-white and includes one of Missoula’s highest populations of Native Americans, the city said. Park redevelopment would highlight the identity of American Indians.
“Each of these (applicants) own their own project, so to speak, so they’re sub awards,” said Tracy Pohndorf, a grants administrator with the city. “The city would receive the award and pass on the funding. If more than one application is submitted, the city must rank the applications.”
The City Council will consider the resolution supporting the grant applications next week.