Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - The area surrounding the current Johnson Street Emergency Shelter has been a topic of fiery discussion for several years, and the facility faces many demands over the next few months and possibly years.

Missoula City Councilor Mike Nugent, also a candidate for Mayor, spoke to KGVO News on Monday just prior to the Missoula City Council meeting about what the ‘best use’ of the neighborhood would be to its residents.

Nugent was Walking into the City Council Meeting as he Spoke to KGVO News

“I just think that that neighborhood has been patient with the temporary winter shelter every year,” began Nugent. “It's clear that the path that the city is on right now with the emergency declaration by the mayor in June that they just deserve some predictability and some clarity on what the future is. We heard it last week from staff, I mean, the highest and best use is still to ‘masterplan’ the Johnson Street area and put in some opportunities for mixed-use and I think that we just need to show them a commitment that that's what we're going to do.”

Nugent thanked the two Ward 6 City Councilors for their help in visioning the best use for the Johnson Street neighborhood, which would NOT include an emergency winter shelter.

Nugent said the Johnson Street area Needs Clarity of Purpose

“I'm happy to be joined by Councilwoman Vasecka and Councilwoman Jordan whose ward the Johnson Street shelter sits in to just try and bring some clarity and kind of say no,” he said. “We are going to commit to starting the master planning process so that they can be a part of it, and you know we are going to put a date on tearing that building down.

Nugent acknowledged the deep frustration of the Johnson Street area residents over how the issue has been handled thus far.

“The Public process is supposed to involve the public,” he said. “There was a declaration made in June that this was going to be open year-round. They finally brought it to council for a vote last week, which we had to talk more about, and so we held it in committee. The public's really not had any opportunity for engagement. They're going to finally do that Tuesday night in a public meeting, which I think is great and long overdue, but I just think it's important for them to know that they're being heard and that their frustration is valid.”

Nugent said the Johnson Street area is NOT an Ideal Place for such a Shelter

Nugent said overall that the neighborhood is not an ideal place for such an emergency shelter, and offered other possibilities for the area.

“I don't think that a homeless outreach facility such as it is currently, is necessarily the proper place for it,” he said. “I think it's too close to residential for that. Now, if there's some element of income-qualified housing or something like that as part of the plan, then that could certainly be part of the conversation. I don't want to take anything off the table except to say that I don't believe that location is appropriate for the type of shelter that's currently been there long term. I understand that there's an emergency and we don't have many other options right now, but long term, it's not the right spot.”

The public meeting will be held from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in the Franklin Elementary School Gym, located at 1910 South 11th Street West in Missoula.

Inside Look at the New TSOS Shelters

The Temporary Safe Outdoor Space new hard-sided shelter facility officially opened on Thursday, January 5. The TSOS is just off West Broadway near the new Trinity affordable housing complex.

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