NewsMissoula County


Missoula’s Temporary Safe Outdoor Space to find new home

Posted at 4:00 PM, Dec 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-09 18:08:35-05

MISSOULA — Missoula County officials saw an immediate need for more homeless shelter options when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit as the Poverello Center was operating at partial capacity.

The Temporary Safe Outdoor Space (TSOS) that was erected on private property near US Highway 93 south of Missoula one year ago and has been operating in a temporary emergency capacity since that time. But now, officials say it’s been so successful in helping people get into permanent housing, that they want to keep it going – but in a new location.

"We have a community that we need to serve and help these people out and provide a decent place, sanitary place for these people to live if they are going to be on the street,” said Missoula County Shelter Operations manager Casey Gannon.

The Temporary Safe Outdoor Space had been operating along Highway 93 in Missoula.

Missoula officials have struggled for years to figure out the best way to serve our unhoused population, "there's definitely been an influx of people on the street,” Gannon noted.

But now, Missoula County believes it's finding the potential first steps to a solution.

Hope Rescue Mission has had great success out at their current location,” Gannon said. “[It’s a] service-rich place where people are ready to work with services to try to find longer-term housing."

A pair of non-profits -- Hope Rescue Mission and United Way of Missoula County -- jump-started the TSOS and have been able to get people into permanent homes. And now, Missoula County is offering additional support.

The Temporary Safe Outdoor Space along US Highway 93 just south of Missoula.

Hope Rescue Mission executive director Jim Hicks told MTN News in an email on Thursday the TSOS has served almost 80 people, getting 27 of them into housing. He also said 20 people have obtained IDs, or are in the process of obtaining IDs, and almost all have taken advantage of case management services on site.

What's new at the TSOS this winter, is additional support from the county, "we kind of want to build off that success and build a more sustainable model for that to continue to operate," Gannon said.

County-funded metal shelters, that look a bit like tiny homes, are almost ready to replace the tents. Gannon said the county ordered 30 of the 100 square foot Pallet homes, but they aren't quite ready to go up. "We do have these shelters on-site, I wish we could deploy them."


The county hopes to deploy the new hard-sided shelters by early summer but first, Gannon said, they need better infrastructure, "we kind of want to build off that success and build a more sustainable model for that to continue to operate,” Gannon explained. "The current site's not adequate for them."

That's why Missoula County plans to move the TSOS to a new location, likely on city or county-owned land.

"We have a good partnership with the neighbors of that site,” Gannon noted. “We're hopefully taking the last few steps, and hopefully will be announcing that in the next month or so."

Gannon says once the new site is ready, other partners will be able to step in and help more people relocate and use the services.

"It'll be kind of a multi-agency coordination in terms of how we move them, while also keeping good relationships with the people living out there with our partners that work with them on a regular basis." - Missoula County Shelter Operations manager Casey Gannon

Gannon says Missoula County hopes to deploy the new hard-sided shelters by early summer.