Missoula Mayor to Host Public Meeting on Johnson Street Center
Missoula MT (KGVO-AM News) - Missoula Mayor Jordan Hess will host a public meeting to address the issue of what is now being called the Jonson Street Community Center on Tuesday evening at the Franklin School Gymnasium.
KGVO News reached out to City of Missoula Mayor Hess for details about the meeting and about the issue of homelessness in Missoula and how it must be addressed.
Mayor Hess will Host a Public Meeting at Franklin School
“The plan has been to reopen the Johnson Street shelter,” began Mayor Hess. “Given our state of emergency around homelessness and the number of people sleeping outside without shelter and some of the issues and concerns that that's caused within our community, this is just the most prudent, most economical, and the fastest thing we can do to provide an immediate solution.”
Hess responded to the fact that both city councilors in Ward 6 where the shelter sits have heard from residents that they don’t want the shelter to reopen due to increased crime in the neighborhood.
Hess will Address Concerns from Residents near the Shelter
“I think that we can do a number of things,” he said. “I think that through policy and how the facility is managed, we can try to be as responsive as possible to neighborhood concerns. We can work with our security provider and with our police department to make sure that we have adequate patrols. We can work with the service providers to make sure that we're connecting people to resources. I recently had a great conversation with someone in one of our local faith communities who's interested in providing some volunteer services as well. I think we can work with groups like that and with interested parties just to make this as low impact as possible.”
Hess said the Johnson Street shelter is only one of the future projects he sees being needed in Missoula.
“We also need to have a community conversation which I have committed that kicking off this fall as soon as possible about what we do about a long-term second shelter,” he said. “We know that we have needs in the community for a second shelter. We also know that there are a lot of different types of needs. We have needs for a Family and Children's Shelter; we have needs for a low barrier type of shelter, and we need to have a community conversation about what those long-term needs are and where this goes.”
Hess said he Rejects the 'If You Build it They Will Come' Philosophy
Hess took the opportunity to reject the notion that ‘if you build it, they will come’ in that most homeless persons in Missoula are not coming in from out of state.
“I reject the notion that people come here for services,” he said. “We have survey data that shows that the vast majority of the people who are homeless in Missoula have their last residential address in Montana. Also, in talking to mayors around the state, this is an issue that is ballooning everywhere, in Kalispell, Great Falls, Bozeman, and in Helena. These are places that have never had significant visible homeless populations but do this year. I think it's something that that we're experiencing across the west and it's something that ultimately is going to require some assistance at other levels of government.”
The neighborhood meeting will be at Franklin School on Tuesday evening from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. featuring Mayor Hess, along with Missoula Police Chief Mike Colyer Poverello Center Director Jill Bonny and Arianna Jones from Black Knight Security. There will also be an open house at the Johnson Street Shelter on Wednesday, September 6 from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. with Staff from the Poverello Center, the City of Missoula, and Black Knight Security will be on hand to talk with visitors.