Reserve Street Encampment

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Our community members contact us with concerns about people living outdoors. Many of the comments are about the encampment under the Reserve Street Bridge. This page will address what the City, County, and community partners have done so far, what we will be doing in the next few years, and why the problem is more visible this year. We also want to hear your ideas for solving these problems.

What We’re Doing

Like other U.S. communities, Missoula developed a 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness, based on a federal model. Reaching Home: Missoula’s 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness, adopted in 2012

Our community members contact us with concerns about people living outdoors. Many of the comments are about the encampment under the Reserve Street Bridge. This page will address what the City, County, and community partners have done so far, what we will be doing in the next few years, and why the problem is more visible this year. We also want to hear your ideas for solving these problems.

What We’re Doing

Like other U.S. communities, Missoula developed a 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness, based on a federal model. Reaching Home: Missoula’s 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness, adopted in 2012, laid out a road map to make homelessness rare, brief and one-time-only. It takes a Housing First approach, based on evidence that housing is the first solution to homelessness. In 2017, the plan incorporated a newly designed Missoula Coordinated Entry System, which aims to prevent and divert households from entering the homeless system, reduces duplication of services, provides data to improve outcomes and results in prioritizing limited housing resources. It saves lives, and it saves money.

Where We’re Going

In the next three years, we are engaging in an aggressive three-phase Housing First approach to decrease the number of people living outdoors.

Phase One

In phase one, currently underway, we are partnering with our health centers, hospital systems, our shelter providers and our criminal justice system to implement a Frequent Utilizer System Engagement (FUSE) model. This proven strategy decreases both the human and economic costs that unsheltered homelessness have on a community. We are also working with the Coordinated Outreach Teams, like the Poverello Center Homeless Outreach Teams and Hope Rescue Mission, to provide dedicated outreach to individuals living outdoors and in encampments and providing resources to help with regular trash collection and clean-up work.

Phase Two

In phase two, the Missoula Housing Authority will dedicate 12 homes in the Cornerstone Apartments to FUSE participants – those who have been living without a home for a long time and who regularly cycle among our shelter systems, our emergency rooms and our jails. We will work with the Missoula Housing Authority to make sure tenants have the support they need to be successful. These homes will be ready to welcome new tenants in late fall or early winter 2020.

Phase Three

In phase three, we are supporting the construction of the Trinity Apartments, a collaboration among the Missoula Housing Authority, Homeword and BlueLine Development. The Trinity Apartments will provide more than 200 units of permanently affordable homes, 30 of which will be dedicated as supportive housing for FUSE participants.

Alongside these efforts, which are dedicated to serving individuals with the highest barriers, we are supporting the construction of 235 permanently affordable homes through the Villagio Apartments and the Skyview Apartments, many of which will provide safe and secure housing to individuals living in, or at risk of becoming, homeless. These homes will be ready to welcome new tenants in the next two years.

By working on a system-wide approach through the Missoula Coordinated Entry System and providing affordable homes, our goal is to make sure homelessness is as brief as possible and is a one-time event. Missoula has seen a noticeable improvement in helping many of the homeless people who were visible downtown transition into a stable living environment.

  • People Living Outdoors During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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    04 Aug 2020

    Missoula, along with the entire nation, is dealing with the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The effects on people experiencing homelessness in our community are similar to those around the country. Our local homeless shelter provider has instituted a night shelter cap in accordance with social distancing and bed spacing recommendations from federal health authorities. This resulted in a temporary loss of more than 75 shelter beds in our community and a subsequent increase in the number of people living outdoors, a number we have seen steadily increase since late January. More people have growing concern about contracting COVID-19 while staying in a crowded communal shelter environment, so they instead make do with outdoor encampments.

    This summer, 80 to 100 people have lived outdoors near the Reserve Street Bridge. They are without resources to rent housing. Workers and volunteers connected to our Coordinated Outreach Team, like the Poverello Center’s Homeless Outreach Teams and Hope Rescue Mission, visit often, working to connect people with services and bring them into housing. Missoula’s tight supply of housing and escalating prices make this a challenge.

    People live outdoors in other locations around the valley, but they are camping in less visible places. Missoula’s Homeless Management Information System helps us track trends, make data-driven decisions and evaluate our success. The detailed information the system collects also helps address health, behavioral health, social and housing needs. Like cities around the country and the state of Montana, we gather information through the annual point-in-time survey. That provides a clear picture of homelessness in our region. On any given day in the Missoula region, at least 350 people are homeless. Some are uncomfortably visible, sleeping on sidewalks or the Courthouse lawn and living in encampments. As of January 2019, 20 percent of people without homes in Missoula were unsheltered. That means 74 men, women and children were living outdoors. That number fluctuates. At its peak, in 2015, more than 200 individuals were living outdoors in our community. At its low, in 2018, the number was about 60.