Reaching Home: Missoula’s 10- Year Plan To End Homelessness
In 2011, the City of Missoula and Missoula County combined resources to develop Reaching Home: Missoula’s 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness. The shared belief that housing is the only solution to homelessness remains the driving force behind the effort.
You can watch the Reaching Home Update from May 2021 here. Below are some additional ways to engage and learn more about efforts related to supporting our neighbors who are unhoused. Be sure to sign up below for our newsletter titled Reaching Out. Email Emily Armstrong, Reaching Home Program Manager with additional curiosities.
- Read about the local City/County housing and Houselessness Initiatives
- Listen to the podcast Outsiders
- Learn about the Missoula Coordinated Entry System
- Read about the causes and consequences of houselessness in this CityLab article
- Access Point in Time Count data from the Montana Continuum of Care – View Pre-2020 data here / View 2020 data here
Overview of Current City Efforts
The City of Missoula has a number of initiatives in place and continuous efforts at work to make homelessness rare, brief, and one-time only. Below is an overview of the City's current efforts:
The Missoula Coordinated Entry System (MCES) was created in 2017 in an effort to better utilize the array of homelessness and housing resources throughout Missoula. There are currently 38 agencies throughout Missoula signed on to this system as either an access points or partner agency responsible for directly serving or providing supportive services to our neighbors experiencing homelessness. Our two advertised access points are currently 2-1-1 and the Poverello Center. Representatives from all of the agencies correspond regularly to coordinate services for individuals entering the system and ensure the resources are going to community members with the greatest need. Part of MCES is the By-Name-List, which is an identified list of the individuals in Missoula experiencing homeless. Dozens of case workers from across the City come together on a weekly basis to review this list and plan case coordination for each of these people individually. It’s one of the most amazing parts of our system run by some really incredible case workers.
We also have the FUSE program, which is part of MCES and managed by a representative at Partnership Health Center. FUSE stands for Frequent Users of Systems Engagement and is a program to provide targeted support to our community members who are most frequently using crisis services (i.e. shelters, jail, hospitals). This targeted support offers these individuals Permanent Supportive Housing and a level of stability not previously known, ultimately freeing up those crisis services for better utilization by the larger Missoula community.
The Poverello Center has a Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) that spends their time doing outreach across the City. They visit various places frequented by people experiencing homelessness to provide 1-on-1 support, connection to the Missoula Coordinated Entry System, and connection to resources. HOT is part of larger coalition of outreach teams from various agencies across the City who do similar work called the Coordinated Outreach Team (COT). They all coordinate their efforts to minimize duplication and maximize their reach.
The YWCA just opened the new YWCA Meadowlark Family Housing and Domestic Violence Shelter Facility in May 2021. The brand new shelter facility, created in partnership with Missoula Interfaith Collaborative’s Family Promise Program, significantly expands our community’s ability to support families who are houseless and those impacted by domestic violence. The 30,000-square-foot building has 38 private sleeping rooms, 178 beds, 50 bathrooms, shared living and dining areas, outdoor youth play spaces, health care and legal clinics, and offices for supportive services. The facility’s three wings—YWCA’s program center, YWCA’s domestic violence shelter, and Missoula Family Housing Center—offer a significant resource to Missoula in ensuring that there is access to dignified, safe housing for families who need it most.
Hope Rescue Mission, United Way, and Missoula County are also involved in creating and operating the Temporary Safe Outdoor Space (TSOS), which has proven its importance in less than 4 months. This site has housed around 25 people consistently with an ongoing waitlist and provides a high-level of case management and health services to residents. As of early April 2021, we’ve already seen 7 individuals transition to housing or be otherwise diverted from homelessness and multiple others receive housing approval, vouchers, and/or emergency housing. We’ve also seen 4 individuals gain employment since moving to the TSOS and one get accepted into Univ. of Montana, and these are just of few of the many successes.
Missoula also opened a Non-Congregate Shelter (NCS) in response to COVID-19, which is a large part of the reason that our shelters have been able to operate successfully during the pandemic. The NCS is intended to provide short-term shelter for individuals who need a safe space to quarantine and isolate as a result of either a) testing positive for COVID-19, or b) being identified as a close contact. It also serves individuals who are identified as high-risk for COVID-19 and don’t have a safe place to isolate. The NCS has served upwards of 279 unique individuals since opening, and has placed at least 7 people into housing as of early April 2021.
The Reaching Home staff at the City are also engaged in a number of efforts to continue understanding the gaps in our homelessness and housing system and devise sustainable solutions. Reaching Home staff are spending time visiting our shelters and outdoor spaces to build relationships with residents and understand what kind of services they most need so that solutions can be properly targeted. Reaching Home is also in process of developing: a) a leadership roundtable of leaders throughout the City including City Council and County Commissioners to support actionable items related to homelessness, and b) an advisory group of lived experience experts who can guide our homelessness efforts from a place of expertise having been homeless in Missoula and experiencing our system first-hand.
Finally, we’re looking ahead to the development of the Villagio and Trinity, both of which will offer affordable rental housing to Missoulians making at or below 60% of the area median income. Trinity will also have a Navigation Center intended to provide supportive services and connection to the Missoula Coordinated Entry System for neighbors experiencing homelessness, as well as 30 Permanent Supportive Housing units to house community members with the greatest need, many of whom are part of the FUSE program.