A Better Future for Missoula’s Homeless


In the debate over finding a new home for Missoula’s Poverello Center, much of the community’s attention has been captured by concerns of simply moving the homeless “problem” into a different area of town and how any spill-over may affect people’s children and home value rather than how a new and modern facility can improve the quality of life for not only homeless people and families but for the community as a whole.

The NIMBYs have taken over the asylum and seem reluctant to give back the keys.  Many people who comment on this topic think that the best solution would be to simply move the Pov to the edge of town, preferably adjacent to the interstate, to allow the homeless to keep moving on once they have visited the Pov and to more the “problem” outside of downtown away from view and out of people’s minds.

Dallas has found a different solution – one that involves providing a new standard of best-practices – by providing  services that aim to get people off the streets and back into housing and steady employment. The Bridge Homeless Assistance Center, operated by a local Dallas non-profit, has received international recognition for its innovative approach to packaging transitional services together in a single facility.  The Bridge is located on the edge of downtown Dallas where it easily accessible to not only the homeless, but well situated to create lasting community partnerships that can have a profound affect on the success of transitional services.  Successful enough that in a three-year period The Bridge has transitioned 982 people in permanent housing and placed 1,588 into jobs.

Also since the opening of The Bridge in 2008, “chronic homeless has been reduced by 57%… the local crime rate has reduced by more than 20%,” while  The Bridge has  saved the City of Dallas $3 million dollars in emergency services costs.  That, to me, seem like a well placed investment of community resources.  Missoula isn’t Dallas when it comes to the amount of resources we have to spend, but one of the strengths of our community is that we like to punch above our weight class.

As long as the conversation is focused simply on the future location of the Pov we aren’t getting to the heart of what this debate should be about… what is best for Missoula and what will bring the most benefits to our community.  The Dallas model looks to be a better option than trying to hide the problem away in some undesirable corner of Missoula.

  1. Apropos to this is something I wrote some years ago.

    I’m with you on this one no matter how “carefree” or “stupid” you hold yourself out to be.

  2. Steve W

    I agree with you, CFS. We need a new Pov that’s located where people can use it.

  3. ladybug

    “Homelessness” doesn’t adequately describe how important some of the underlying physical and mental health issues are. Without a full and fair public discussion of root causes, a reasoned decision will again be hard to come by. We treat symptoms don’t we? Maybe some of the fat cats wasting time and space at the Missoula Boone & Crockett Club could make a little room for something important to the community.

  4. Chaz

    So what are you recommending Missoula do?

    • carfreestupidity

      Missoula should be bold and ambitious rather than timid in addressing this issue.
      And move the debate from specifically focusing on the location to how a new facility can address the problems homelessness creates for the wider community, what improved services the Pov will be able to provide, etc.

  5. ladybug

    Invest in a multi-purpose facility downtown that provides food, shelter and health care.

  6. Lisa

    Thanks for speaking for those you have no voice…

  7. Freeky Fried Chicken

    People who choose alternative lifestyles (AKA the homeless) should not be a blight for those supporting The System.

    Only a fraction of bums are redeemable; the bulk are lazy drunkards who choose to be a bother.

    Quality Workers don’t want to encounter these vermin on a regular basis, so any facilities catering to them should be off the beaten path.

    • JC

      Your bigotry reveals much more about you than about the homeless.

      While some homeless people may be so by choice, that still doesn’t negate that they have rights. The rest are not homeless by choice.

      Addiction and mental illness are not something that “people choose.” These “alternative lifestyles” are thrust on people who suffer from a disease and are unable to manage living in the world of “normal” people.

      And while you may protest that “Quality Workers” may want to avoid encounters with homeless people, the homeless have every right to be encountered in the community wherever they may be. Homelessness is not a crime.

      furthermore, many people who use Povarello facilities were successful community members–your neighbors, families, a friend or parent–until some circumstance beyond their control (health crisis, loss of job, family disruption, etc.) rendered them temporarily homeless. Are these the “vermin” of which you speak?

      In my mind, you’re a much sicker person than the schizophrenic addict who pisses on himself in the alleyways. When “sane” people lose all compassion, our society becomes irredeemably unlivable.

    • Steve W

      Your hatred for your fellow humans is duly noted, FFC.

    • carfreestupidity

      Have any actual facts to back up your bigotry Freeky?

      I think the results that Dallas has achieved proves your assumption wrong.

  8. Chuck

    The corner of Broadway and Russell seems to have available space for lease or purchase, some of it already subsidized. Is it possible The Pov could move their offices into Word’s new building , set up their kitchen in the nearly vacant strip mall next door and lease or purchase some of the numerous apartments and condos along that block to house homeless families?

  9. families and individuals shoved aside and discarded in the largest shift of wealth to the most rich in our society since the roaring twenties has resulted in people pushed literally to the very edge of survival.

    the poverello is missoula’s most effective shield keeping people from turning to crime in order to see another day. it needs to be put on the front burner. way ahead of sidewalks and street improvements.

    most of these people are our own fellow missoulians who have lost jobs and suffered greatly in this recession. missoula has always proven itself to be a city that rises to the occasion when a great need is identified. the poverello needs our help. it has sustained and protected the most vulnerable in the tradition of sister anne as long as it can in its current facility. we must meet this need. and i believe missoula ultimately will do this. because it is a great community.

  10. Freeky Fried Chicken

    Forced labor/extermination camps are the only viable lasting solution.

  11. konrad

    This is a complex issue. Sadly, the “happy facts” of Dallas are mostly just spin. With the decline in popularity of crack concaine, deportation of multiple offendor illegal aliens, and much higher numbers in jail, crime has dropped in every US city since the late 80’s. Even without the “help” of homeless centers. ;-) Even with the high foreclosure rates, crime has continued to drop. What is the meaure of “success” at homeless centers? The stats vary, are very “squishy,” and produced mostly to garner federal funding. These places have become self-perpetuating models of a fossil. The real problem is that mental health facilities were all closed and now most of the homeless are really mental health patients with additiction problems. Solve the mental health care model and you solve 70% of homelessness.

    • lizard19

      you criticize “squishy” stats, then throw around numbers like 70% of homelessness is due to a lack of mental health care. are we suppose to just take your word for it, or can you at least provide a link to something that could help substantiate your claim.

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