The Missoula Emergency Winter Shelter May Have to Close for Good
Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - After speaking with city officials last week about the upcoming closure of the Johnson Street Emergency Winter Shelter for the season, it was revealed that the building itself and the funding for the shelter may not available next winter.
KGVO News spoke with Susan Hay Patrick, CEO of the Missoula County United Way about the prospect of not having the shelter for next winter.
The Johnson Street Emergency Winter Shelter will Close on April 10
“I think the situation is very alarming,” began Hay Patrick. “We have no assurances that we'll be able to use that current Johnson Street facility. It is part of the Downtown Master Plan and there are plans for it. I’m not sure of the timing of those but it is very unlikely that the emergency winter shelter will be able to take place in that facility for another year.”
Hay Patrick said the other concerning part of the equation regarding the Johnson Street Emergency Winter Shelter was the fact that the COVID funding for the past three years will not be available next winter.
“Just as challenging, if not more so, is finding funding for that,” she said. “The failure of the Crisis Intervention Levy on the November ballot last fall means that there is not right now at least identified public funding for this community resource and it is highly unlikely that those of us in the private sector will be able to raise sufficient funds to staff and secure staff, and provide meals, utilities, etc. throughout the winter, so it is an alarming situation.”
Hay Patrick said there Could be Tragic Consequences Next Winter
Hay Patrick expressed her fear that without such a facility for the houseless next winter, there may be tragic consequences.
“There is a good chance that people will die without an emergency winter shelter, and they literally have no place to go and we will see illegal, unsafe campgrounds popping up again if there is no emergency winter shelter,” she said. “I'm not being an alarmist. I'm just stating facts based on experience.”
Hay Patrick attempted to dispel the notion that houseless individuals and families will simply move on from Missoula to another community next winter, because the large majority are already Missoula residents.
Hay Patrick said the Majority of Unhoused Individuals are Missoula Residents
“The overwhelming percentage of people who became unhoused in Missoula are Missoulians, and they have lived here at least six months, many of them much longer,” she said. “So we hear these stories; these urban legends of other communities busing homeless people to Missoula. But those of us on the front lines have not found any evidence to support this. We cannot have people dying on our streets freezing to death. We have to summon the political will and the funding to make sure that doesn't happen.”
The City Council authorized over $385,000 for the Johnson Street Emergency Shelter for the winter. The official closing date will be April 10.
The City of Missoula provided the following statement:
The Johnson Street Community Center, where Emergency Winter Shelter is housed, will not be deconstructed to make way for redevelopment before the entire site is remediated and taken off the EPA list, which is about September of 2024. So that is not a worry for this coming winter.