MISSOULA - The city will fund an evaluation to better understand the successes and gaps that remain in its effort to stamp out homelessness as Missoula’s plan to end homelessness closes out its first decade.
This week, members of the City Council approved a $42,000 contract with JG Research and Evaluation to take a comprehensive look at Reaching Home: Missoula’s 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness.
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“We really have reached the 10-year lifespan of this plan,” said Emily Armstrong, the plan’s coordinator with the city. “We plan to do an evaluation to assess the successes, challenges and gaps, and really look at where things need to shift. The landscape looks quite different today than it did 10 years ago.”
Missoula Mayor John Engen pushed for the plan’s adoption in 2012, marking an intentional effort to address the challenge of homelessness.
While the plan’s title has been maligned over the past decade for its lofty pledge of ending homelessness, the work has born successes and changed how the city and its partners approach the issue.
Now, the city wants to take stock in that work and identify the path forward.
“We’re doing a retrospective evaluation,” said project director Brandon Green with JG Research. “We want to understand the drivers of success and any of the barriers related to the goals of the 2012 plan. We want to be efficient and not reproduce things that are already done or already known.”
A number of programs are in place now that weren’t 10 years ago, including the city’s coordinated entry system, the unification of partner services, and more shelter options. Around 30 supportive housing units will also open next year with wrap-around services.
The successes are praiseworthy, advocates have argued over the past year. But they also acknowledge that challenges linger. Armstrong said working on houselessness is often reactionary and crisis-driven, making it hard to take stock of the work along the way.
The evaluation will serve as a pause and place fresh eyes on the issue, he said.
“We’re open to what seems like the best approach based upon what we’re finding in the evaluation,” she said. “We don’t want to have a prescriptive endpoint without knowing what we’ll learn along the way.”