MISSOULA - The issue of the un-housed is a growing problem in the country, which is why communities are trying to come up with solutions.
One of those solutions is a sanctioned encampment to help get those affected back on their feet. In Missoula, the non-profit organization Hope Rescue Mission spearheaded the establishment of the Temporary Safe Outdoor Space.
The organization leases from a private landowner for only one dollar a year to help those suffering from homelessness.
“This problem is a blend of affordable housing, mental illness, and substance abuse,” said Jeff Hicks, the executive director of Hope Rescue Mission. “When you add those three at various levels for each other, this is the issue that we are facing.”
According to the White House, .2% of the American population lives in a state of homelessness. That number equals more than 550,000 people. With around half a million individuals living in a state of homelessness, communities are looking for solutions to improve this issue.
“When the pandemic hit, we found 120 camps, and we were overwhelmed as outreach workers,” said April Seat, the director of outreach for Hope Rescue Mission. “So, when we had an opportunity to create a safe space for these folks, we did.”
Cities like Missoula moved toward sanction encampments. It happened in Las Cruces, New Mexico, and Durango, Colorado.
"We've served about 110 people have gone through here, and every one of them had access to case management and our resources,” Seat said. “Forty-nine percent of the people that have gone through here are now permanently in housing, recovery or areas where we mended some family situations, but they have not turned back to the system."
"As long as the residents and participants are moving forward, there's no timeline where they have to leave,” Hicks said. “But we do want them meeting certain markers, including no drug use here on site. They have to co-operate with those things. As long as they move forward, they can stay here as long as needed.”
Hope Rescue Mission hopes other cities will start implementing these types of sanctioned homeless camps to help transition others into better living.