Several weeks after the official opening of the Temporary Safe Outdoor Space located off Highway 93 South across from the Buckhouse Bridge, KGVO received an update from Jim Hicks, Executive Director of the Hope Rescue Mission.

On Friday, Hicks said the 40 residents in 20 4-person tents at the location are benefiting from the site.

“The residents are feeling secure and safe, meaning that they can leave their camp and go to work or go take care of business and know that when they come back their tents won't be ransacked,” said Hicks. “We have lockers there for them to put their stuff in, so just that mental health piece has helped them gain traction.”

One of the chief aspects of the TSOS is to help homeless people begin the transition to permanent housing, and Hicks said for some, that is already underway.

“About four of the residents are lining up for housing vouchers,” he said. “Now we all know here in Missoula, transitional affordable housing is tough so we don't know when they will be able to move into permanent housing, but we have had one other resident who will be in permanent housing scheduled in the first part of next week and another resident that is in a motel that is being paid for until she can get into permanent housing."

For those who were afraid that the TSOS might be a permanent part of the area, Hicks said that won’t be possible because the site is funded by COVID monies.

“No, at this point we can't continue on because of county regulations and those kinds of things,” he said “So we are scrambling to see what the next step might be. We’re talking with the county, just knowing that at the end of the COVID emergency declaration will come sooner than later, and that's really what some of our funding is tied to in enabling us to staff that temporary safe outdoor space.”

Hicks said the future of such temporary housing is bleak for several areas used by the homeless, such as the Reserve Street camp and the former SHEC church on Johnson Street.

We don't know where they would go if we cannot somehow make something like this work,” he said. “They won't be able to return there (to the Reserve Street camp), and that's a concern because then we ask ‘where are they going to go?’ as well as those residents that are under Reserve,as there are currently plans for the Montana Department of Transportation to permanently close the Reserve Street camp. Where are they going to go? Plus, when COVID and winter is over, where are the residents at the Johnson Street shelter going to go?”

The Johnson Street shelter is only scheduled through the end of March, as it was set up during a cold snap in December.


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