MISSOULA — With increasing use of the emergency winter shelter on Johnson Street, the Missoula City Council on Monday night unanimously approved the allocation of $450,000 in grants to the Poverello Center for shelter services.
More than $365,000 of the funds came from community development COVID grants the city received to put to use for services responding to the pandemic. The rest came from leftover funds from a grant meant to help provide a suitable living environment for low- and moderate-income people.
Jesse Jaeger, director of development and advocacy for the Poverello Center, thanked the council for the award.
“Last week we told you we’re serving about 80 people. Just over the past week, that’s grown to average into about 100 people a night who are served over at the Johnston street shelter,” Jaeger said. “It’s a need that is certainly growing as the weather gets colder.”
The city and Missoula County have already given $50,000 each in separately-contracted funds for the 24/7, 150-bed shelter. That was in addition to $330,000 in federal grant money to the shelter.
When the city reached out to the Community Organizations Active in Disaster Homelessness Task Force for how they should use the grants, they received a recommendation that the emergency winter shelter was the greatest community need related to COVID-19.
“It meets national objectives of efforts to help low and moderate-income persons or households and meet needs to prevent and prepare for COVID. The emergency winter shelter is needed as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Emily Armstrong, City of Missoula Grants Administrator.
The winter shelter is one of three in operation during the pandemic, with the Poverello Center itself reducing the number of beds due to COVID precautions, and an outdoor homeless camp on the south side of Missoula able to sleep 40 starting this month.
Since starting the homeless shelter on Johnson Street on Nov. 1, Jaeger said they have put up bike racks at the shelter to assist with transportation needs as part of an effort to reduce potential spread from people using the shelters interchangeably.
“We have been trying to discourage as much cross-pollination as possible between the main Pov building and the Johnson Street building.
The bike racks are in addition to a shower and laundry trailer now in place at the emergency shelter.
“With this pandemic, our normal structures that we have in place, such as the Poverello to house homeless people during the winter, the capacity needs to be expanded because as we all know, you cannot have a lot of people in one space,” council member Gwen Jones said.
“As a result, Poverello and staff and city and county have done a lot of heavy lifting to greatly increase that capacity with the Johnson Street facility, and these additional federal funds help greatly to financially make it all work.”