The Poverello Center will reopen the men’s dorm at its West Broadway homeless shelter by Sept. 13, after a four-month closure and costly repairs caused by sewage leaks.
“It has been a challenging summer here at the Poverello Center,” said Amy Allison Thompson, the center’s executive director. “Not having access to 56 sleeping spaces has meant we have had to be creative about how to continue to serve all our guests, and space has been really tight. But I am really proud of how resilient our staff and guests have been as we have worked through this difficult situation.”
Last May, the Poverello Center experienced a sewage leak in the main-floor kitchen that seeped down, flooded and caused $150,000 in damage to the basement-level men’s dorm. After the kitchen and dorm were repaired, and the basement dorm was set to reopen, another damaging sewage leak occurred, delaying the reopening.
Since then, the Poverello worked with individuals and companies involved in building the five-year-old facility, as well as engineers and plumbers, to identify causes of the flooding and make improvements to prevent future seepage.
The conclusion: Although the plumbing system was up to code, it could not keep up with the amount and type of use the building experiences.
“Our building was built with a certain amount of growth in the homeless population in mind,” said Thompson. “But in recent years, that growth has exploded well beyond what anyone who was involved with developing this building expected. This was especially true after 2016, when cuts were made to case management services across Montana. Suddenly we had people who were stably housed with case management services coming through our door because they could not maintain housing.”
The cost of repairs came to $240,000, and included increasing the size of some sewer lines, replacing all 90-degree turns in the plumbing line with 45-degree turns, and adding a sewer line back-up detection system along with an emergency shut off. Insurance paid $60,000. The rest was raised via community donations.
“The Missoula community really rallied to support us,” said Jesse Jaeger, development and advocacy director for the center. “We received over 100 donations ranging from $10 to $36,000 from all across our community. It is humbling to have so much generosity come our way and it is a testament to how caring our community really is.”
Major donors included the Washington Foundation, Clearwater Credit Union, First Interstate Bank, the United Way, Wells Fargo, St. Patrick Providence Hospital, Missoula County and Stockmans Bank.
The Poverello Center is a Missoula-based, 40-year-old nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the health, well-being and stability of people struggling with hunger and homelessness.
The shelter relocated to its current site at 1110 West Broadway in December 2014. Services in the 21,000-square-foot building include short-term emergency shelter, veterans housing and services, medical and health care, daily meals, clothing and laundry, bathroom and shower facilities, addiction support and community outreach, and educational programs. The center regularly sleeps 150 people during warm weather months and 175 when it is cold.