MISSOULA — It's been four weeks since the Johnson Street Homeless Shelter opened its doors and the Poverello Center -- which runs the facility -- has been busy.
The Poverello Center converted the building located on the corner of Johnson Street and North Avenue in Missoula from a warehouse into a 150- person capacity homeless shelter.
While the transition has been successful, it’s still a work in progress says Poverello Center Director of Development and Advocacy, Jesse Jaeger.
“There’s still a lot of work to be done there. We’re kind of learning every day about how to keep our operations working there and working well.”
They have accomplished their main goal of sheltering people in need of a place to stay overnight and in recent days, they’ve seen about 80 to 90 homeless a night.
Within the last few days, the Johnson Street Shelter has achieved other successes as well, thanks to funding from several entities including the Pacific Source Foundation, the City of Missoula, and Providence Health Care.
“We were able to purchase a shower trailer, it’s a shower and laundry trailer that will be parked at Johnson Street, we’ll be able to plug it right into the plumbing there and so we’re excited about that, and now we’re just getting everything rolled up, and getting capacity rolled up in the kitchen to do a hot meal a day," Jaeger said.
With all the positives, there are issues that are still being worked on. The biggest problem is what to do with the homeless during the day when they are not in the facility. It is a concern that impacts neighborhood residents and businesses alike.
“There was an experience of people hanging out in the parks, in the neighborhood, and things like that," Jaeger said. "We’re hopeful we can kind of have a shade structure or some sort of a gazebo-type thing on the property that people can sit under when the weather is inclement."
"We’re also looking at moving the entrance at the shelter to the other side of the building, just so everything isn’t right there on the street," Jaeger added.
With the coldest months ahead, it is almost a guarantee that the shelter and surrounding area will only get busier, and the staff at the Poverello Center say they will continue to work with the homeless, as well as the surrounding neighborhood to ensure as safe an environment as possible for everyone.
Johnson Street Homeless Shelter staff will hold neighborhood meetings that are open to everyone on the second Friday of each month. You can contact the shelter for more information.