MISSOULA — Officials announced plans for an Emergency Winter Shelter in Missoula on Wednesday.
The shelter will operate out of the same location as last year, starting Nov. 1, at the Johnson Street Community Center at 1919 North Avenue West.
"This is not an ideal solution, but it is the solution that we have," Missoula Councilwoman Stacie Anderson said.
City officials say they've sent mail to neighbors, and have met with the Missoula police and fire departments to prepare.
"To learn how we can do better this year. What we can implement to make the operation stronger, and really be in collaboration with the neighbors and surrounding community," said Reaching Home Program Manager Emily Armstrong.
Those in support of the shelter say the priority is to keep unhoused Missoulians alive during the cold winter months.
"This is a difficult thing to bring to the neighborhood, but we have to have a place for people to go. It saves lives," said Missoula Councilwoman Julie Merritt.
The opponents of the shelter referenced extensive issues neighbors experienced last year, including sanitary and security complaints.
"It's unfortunate that the few have ruined it for the many, but they did. There was defecating in people's yards, there was theft, there was vandalism, there was drugs and needles in MRL Park," Missoula Councilwoman Sandra Vasecka said.
According to Wednesday's presentation, new measures are being taken in an attempt to improve on last year's conditions, including fencing, and planning to contract with a local security company.
"Those conversations are still in process to finalize that contract," said Armstrong.
In total, the shelter will cost almost $616,000, being mostly funded by American Rescue Plan Act (APRA) money along with a $205,000 grant from the Human Resource Council. The shelter can house up to 150 people and will be open 24 hours, seven days a week.
A neighborhood meeting, open to all, will take place on Tuesday, Oct. 12, at 7 p.m. over Zoom. The zoom link will be posted on the City of Missoula’s website. There will also be an open house at the shelter on Thursday, Oct. 28, from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m. Feedback can also be given any time online here.