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Johnson Street shelter concerns voiced in Missoula

Johnson Street Emergency Shelter
Posted at 4:57 PM, Mar 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-11 18:57:04-05

MISSOULA — The City of Missoula announced this week that the Johnson Street Emergency Winter Shelter – which was slated to end this month -- will continue operating through April 30.

MTN News caught with officials and neighbors as they try to navigate growing concerns in the area.

"The experience of homelessness is a very traumatic experience, and we want to do everything we can not to make that worse,” said Jesse Jaeger with the Poverello Center.

Months of operation at the Johnson Street Homeless Shelter have officials saying is leading to success. “We've been able to get five individuals housed,” Jaeger noted.

Jaeger told MTN News they extended the operations an extra month due to cold weather and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Partnership Health Center is helping vaccinate staff and guests at the shelter and about 50 people have received doses at a clinic on Wednesday, according to Jaeger.

"We'll be doing those clinics as we move forward, to make sure we get as many people that we're serving vaccinated as possible,” Jaeger said.

But some neighbors and businesses in the area told MTN News that they're unhappy about the extension and have complaints. Shouting, trash, and vandalism are just a few problems this business says they've dealt with.

"Customers don't know whether to get out of their car or come inside, so that's caused a problem,” said Valerie Vandenberg with Custom Upholster. “All your businesses that are literally up and down your street, that are affected by this, it can either make or break you."

Vandenberg says they've been in the same location for 20 years, but this is the first time they've had these kinds of issues.

"We've had people out in the back, or they like to hide in the corners, or try and sleep in the corners,” Vandenberg said. “It just kind of is an eerie feeling sometimes because you don't know what to expect."

She says she's worried it'll be extended again, "I'd like to see them gone."

Jaeger says he understands the complaints. "Being a neighbor to a homeless shelter is not going to be the easiest thing."

He says despite the housing crisis, they're doing what they can to connect people to services, "but the reality is is that this is going to be a growing issue."

The next neighborhood meeting will take place on Thursday and Poverello Center says it plans to discuss a neighborhood cleanup in April.

The extension for the Johnson Street Emergency Winter Shelter is being made possible by funding offered by the Human Resource Council based in Missoula.