The Microsoft Teams meeting that occurred on Tuesday afternoon regarding the future of the Temporary Safe Outdoor Space tent facility just off Highway 93 South across from the Buckhouse Bridge was facilitated by Empower Montana.

CEO of the Missoula United Way, Susan Hay Patrick helped to open the discussion by dispelling some misconceptions about the purpose and timing of the TSOS.

“First, we never promised that the space would close by March 31,” said Hay Patrick. “The TSOS never had an established end date and it's been tied to the duration of the emergency declaration and the pandemic, so we never said it would be dismantled by March 31. We never said that the Reserve Street encampment would be cleared out and closed, with residents relocated to the TSOS.”

Noah Castle, owner of the Silver Slipper located not far from the TSOS, reiterated a problem he has had since the camp first opened.

“Drug needles in our parking lot and people sleeping outside,” said Castle. “People sleeping in the bank space next door inside the vestibule. We have this massive problem, but when it comes to the stories of success, I want to know about where they go from here. At the last meeting I asked Jim (Hicks of the Hope rescue Mission), what is the long term plan? I don't mean for that facility but for these people.”

One of the individuals who has benefited from the TSOS, Fredrick, shared part of his story.

“Everybody needs a helping hand,” said Fredrick. “If your mother and father weren't there for you, then how would you be where you are today? So now that we need help, there's places like the TSOS, the Poverello Center, and places like that, who with proper help and with wisdom, you can take advantage of. So I thank April (Seat of TSOS) and places like this because without this, where would I be now?”

There were several homeowners who live in the area who reported transients sleeping on their yards and Wal-Mart shopping carts scattered throughout the adjacent neighborhoods. One homeowner reported that a TSOS resident left a shopping cart by the side of the road, and the wind pushed it onto the busy highway. She said people are crossing Highway 93 South away from the crosswalks, and was concerned that someone could be severely injured or killed.

County Commissioner Dave Strohmaier praised the open meeting and the public participation.

“For many folks, this has been a transformative point in their life being able to find shelter at the TSOS,” said Strohmaier. “As we look ahead to the future and how there might be transitions on the horizon, this is a great opportunity to take stock of where we have been over the past number of months and seek your thoughts on the future of where we might go going forward.”

In an earlier interview, Jim Hicks of the Hope Rescue Mission hoped the ‘T’ in TSOS would evolve from ‘Temporary’ to ‘Transitional’.

A press release from Missoula County stated 'organizers are exploring the possibility of continuing the TSOS at its current location as a viable, longer-term transitional housing option for people experiencing homelessness.'

Click here to watch the You Tube video of the TSOS meeting.

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