Missoula City Council distributes federal grants for sidewalks, homes, meals

Earlier this year, community leaders came together with Missoula Aging Services to celebrate Meals on Wheels volunteers. The group received a grant Monday night from the Missoula City Council. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current)

The Missoula City Council approved 12 grants to local organizations and agencies Monday, funding everything from rental assistance and Meals on Wheels to sidewalks and tiny houses.

Leaders of those efforts – focused on the elderly, lower-income and homeless families, and the disabled – expressed their gratitude for the Community Development Block Grants and HOME funding.

“Meals on Wheels is more than just a meal,” said Debbie Lester, chief financial officer of Missoula Aging Services. “What we aim to do is to keep people in their homes for as long as possible.”

Lisa Beczkiewicz, health promotions supervisor at the City-County Health Department, endorsed the $261,000 grant for sidewalks in the Westside and Franklin to the Fort neighborhoods, where there is a 42 percent sidewalk deficit. That compares with a 22 percent deficit elsewhere in Missoula.

“We know that people who get up and move have better physical and mental health,” she said. “It is so important that we have that opportunity in every neighborhood, and sidewalks are part of that picture.”

The grant will benefit 19,687 Missoula residents, by far the largest numerical impact of the programs selected for the federal funding.

“This is one of the better things that we do on council,” said longtime Missoula City Councilman Jon Wilkins.

Councilman Jordan Hess encouraged all Missoula residents to call members of Montana’s congressional delegation and share how important the funding is to critical community organizations. Much of the funding has been targeted for elimination by the Trump administration.

The awards were approved unanimously, with Councilwoman Michelle Cares absent.

Will Sebern of Development Services said the city received 17 applications from nonprofit groups and agencies for the Community Development Block Grant money; eight received grants on Monday night.

There were four applicants for the HOME Investment Partnerships funding, and four awards.

As is always true, the requests far exceeded the funding provided to the city of Missoula by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Sebern said. So each application was scored, with the intent of funding the requests with the greatest community impact.

A committee reviewed the applications and made the recommendations considered by the City Council. Here are the grants awarded by the city.

Community Development Block Grants

  • City of Missoula Public Works, $261,000, to support the Invest Health project to install sidewalks that will benefit Missoula’s Westside and Franklin neighborhoods.
  • Opportunity Resources Inc., $68,400 for upgrades and improvements to its Benton Avenue Apartments for severely disabled adults who need 24/7 support. The homes were built in 1983 and their siding and windows need replacement. Thirteen Missoula residents will benefit from this grant.
  • Accessible Space Inc., $32,281, to replace the elevator at Eagle Watch Estates, benefitting 25 low- to moderate-income renters with severe disabilities.
  • Poverello Center, grants of $15,000 and $11,000 to support their assessment of homeless individuals in need of shelter, and to support their home-entry navigator services for homeless individuals and families.
  • Missoula Aging Services, $6,640, to provide low- to moderate-income Missoula residents with home-delivered meals through the Meals on Wheels program.
  • YWCA of Missoula, $25,000, to provide emergency shelter for homeless families through Ada’s Place Emergency Housing Program.

HOME Grants

  • Homeword Inc., $270,772, to support the placement of small manufactured homes that will be available to low- and moderate-income homebuyers and/or renters. Ten families will have homes because of this effort.
  • Homeword Inc., $20,000, to study the feasibility of the Fourth Street Redevelopment Project, which would provide affordable housing. If the project is developed, Sebern said, the $20,000 will be repaid to the city and made available to another project.
  • Homeword Inc., $15,800, in operating assistance.
  • District XI Human Resource Council, $75,000, to provide tenant-based rental assistance for low- and moderate-income households.

In addition, the city’s Housing and Community Development office will receive administrative grants of $103,521 (CDBG) and $31,658 (HOME) to provide technical assistance, support community planning efforts, ensure compliance with federal guidelines, and more.