On busiest winter night, 245 homeless residents seek out Missoula’s shelters

“There’s lots of work still to be done,” Poverello Center executive director Amy Allison Thompson told City Council members on Monday night. (File photo)

Missoula’s two shelters for homeless residents who need a warm, safe place to sleep during the ongoing frigid weather housed 245 on their busiest night, the Poverello Center’s executive director reported Monday.

No one is being turned out into the cold, said Amy Allison Thompson. Anyone who doesn’t have one of the 175 beds available at her West Broadway shelter is given a ride to the Salvation Army, where 70-plus people slept in recent days.

Updating the Missoula City Council, Thompson thanked the many volunteers who have helped keep homeless residents warm during the daytime hours – whether at the Poverello Center or at Mountain Line’s downtown transfer center.

“At the Poverello Center, we have been providing warming space during the day,” she said. “It has been going well. We’ve been busier than normal, but we are happy to be providing lifesaving space.”

She also thanked Mountain Line for adding a stop on weeknights to pick up the Poverello’s overflow visitors and take them to the Salvation Army on Russell Street. The Salvation Army opened its shelter this winter as a temporary solution to the emergency need for more beds during a continuing series of severe storms.

On weekends, volunteers have provided homeless residents with rides to the Salvation Army, knowing the distance is too far to walk at night when temperatures drop well below zero.

Thompson said she’s tracking the numbers so Missoula residents and city and nonprofit group leaders know their starting point when talk turns to next winter and how best to keep homeless residents safe and warm.

“We are already thinking about next winter,” she said, “and I look forward to having a community conversation this spring so we have a good plan going into next year.”

In the meantime, this winter is far from over, she conceded. “There’s lots of work still to be done.”

Poverello Center to provide warming shelter for homeless; work begins on long-term solution