Organizers of the newly opened TSOS (Temporary Safe Outdoor Space) located across Highway 93 South from the Buckhouse Bridge, hosted a ZOOM community meeting on Wednesday.

Representatives from the Missoula County United Way, the Hope Rescue Mission, Missoula City and County officials and others made themselves available to answer questions from the public and from media about the plainly stated temporary project.

Susan Hay-Patrick, Chief Executive Officer at the United Way opened the meeting with a brief description of the TSOS project.

“This project is a partnership between the United Way of Missoula County, which was in charge of the logistics of setup, the Hope Rescue Mission, which is staffing the project, the faith community, other nonprofits, law enforcement, and other first responders, private businesses, County Emergency Management, and reaching home Missoula, the 10 year plan to end homelessness,” said Hay Patrick.

One neighbor to the TSOS asked if there was an exit strategy for the project.

Jim Hicks with the Hope Rescue Mission said the speed with which the TSOS came about created some complications.

“To be very honest, this has really come about so quickly and efficiently that we are currently working on the exit strategy and what that would be,” said Hicks. “It wouldn't be just a matter of releasing those residents to hopefully go find your own place, but we are working on that strategy. What is best for the county, the city and for those residents, that will be a part of our work between now and the end of March.”

One questioner asked the panel about transients and the problems experienced by many businesses in the area.

Hicks responded.

“In the past, I've recognized in that area that the transient population that's been there, like Susan was saying, long before we got there and probably will continue,” he said. “We wish that wasn't the case and we wish we could get those folks in the temporary safe outdoor space if they would sign the rights and responsibilities.”

After an hour of questions and answers, Susan Hay Patrick closed the ZOOM meeting by expressing her frustration over not being able to solve a problem that plagues the entire country.

“I just want to say that I thank you all for your civility and for asking good questions,” she began. “And to those of you who oppose this project, we get it. You're good people who care about and do a lot for your community, and don't let anybody tell you otherwise. We know you were angry and frustrated, we share that with you. We're angry and frustrated, too. You're angry and frustrated, because there are homeless people in your businesses and in your neighborhoods, and we’re angry and frustrated about that, too. And that despite decades of work, and billions of dollars invested, our country has yet to make a dent in ending homelessness. As I said, Missoula is a lot farther ahead than many other communities in the country. The answer to homelessness is housing. We are angry and frustrated that we are accused of wasting money on programs that don't work like just throwing money away, instead of facing the fact that too little money has been invested in programs that do work to end homelessness. So, we feel your anger and we understand it because we feel it too. And those of us who are behind this project want to move from fixing blame to fixing problems; to translate our anger and frustration and frankly, our sadness into permanent housing solutions for everybody in need, even the ones we don't like and the ones who don't like us. And until everyone moves beyond their anger, whether we're either hosting or hating, short term solutions like the Temporary Safe Outdoor Space, we're going to be stuck in the same cycle we have been stuck in for decades, cobbling together underfunded emergency projects, instead of working on finding appropriate sustainable homes for our very diverse population of people experiencing homelessness. That is just a fact.”

At present, the plan is for the TSOS to be in operation through the end of March, 2021.


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