Missoula Housing Authority receives new Section 8 vouchers for disabled clients

For the first time in several years, the Missoula Housing Authority will receive a new allotment of Section 8 housing vouchers from U.S. Housing and Urban Development, putting a small dent in a larger need.

Jim McGrath, director of HUD programs with the local housing authority, said the 20 vouchers will target disabled households in Missoula.

“They will be able to serve households with members with disabilities who are adults but not elderly, so over 18 and under 62,” McGrath said Tuesday. “This is a very competitive national grant application, and frankly we didn’t think we’d be getting them.”

While the need is high, McGrath said the new batch of vouchers will target those in transition from other settings, including formerly homelessness families now in rapid rehousing – a program to get them housed immediately as they work for more stable arrangements.

The housing authority will partner with local service providers, including the YWCA, Opportunity Resources and Summit Independent Living to identify qualified applicants.

“We wanted to partner with some folks in the community and target some specific populations that we thought would be in extra need for these,” said McGrath. “They’ll be focused on folks coming out of institutions or in segregated settings, so disabled folks in those places, or folks who have been homeless and are now in rapid rehousing. Both of those will be addressing a need that really hasn’t been addressed in our community.”

The addition of 20 Section 8 vouchers brings the total number held by the Missoula Housing Authority to 794. McGrath said an estimated 2,000 people are currently on the waiting list for such vouchers.

Of those, roughly 450 claim a disability, he said.

“There’s a substantial need,” McGrath said. “We wish we had more. If we’re able to make full use of these, which we’re optimistic we’ll do, we have an opportunity to get more down the road.”

Receipt of the vouchers punctuates a strong year for the local housing authority, which also announced several new housing projects in recent months.

Those include Cornerstone Apartments, offering 12 units for the “critically needy,” and the Trinity project, a large development on two sites that will include 202 units of housing and wrap-around services.

McGrath said the housing authority hasn’t received any new Section 8 vouchers during his tenure, making this week’s announcement particularly welcome.

“This is a national open competition with hundreds of housing authorities,” he said. “The last round, the Boston Housing Authority got 89 vouchers. We got 20, so we’re really excited about that.”