Martin Kidston/Missoula Current

With stories of transformation coming from several past residents of a homeless camp poised on the south side of Missoula – and with winter closing in – the city and county are now looking to relocate one camp to a more accessible area of the city.

That requires a public hearing by the City Council, though it has no vote in a plan to move the Temporary Safe Outdoor Space (TSOS) from Highway 93, where it now sits on private land, to a new location off West Broadway near the Missoula County Detention Center.

The land is publicly owned and sits adjacent to the new Trinity affordable apartment project that's currently under construction. When it opens, the apartments will include a navigation center to help move the homeless into a safer living situation and provide other homeless services.

Madson Mathias, an associate planner for the city, said the new shelter would add to Missoula's growing array of homeless amenities including the Poverello Center, the YWCA, the emergency winter shelter, the county's sanctioned camp off Reserve Street, and others.

“The important emphasis is that they're legal, they're staffed, they're secured, and they have the appropriate resources, including social services,” Mathias said of the proposed TSOS.

The new camp would include 30 prefabricated modular shelters capable of sleeping four people in each for a total of 124 beds. It would also include two restroom buildings, each containing three bathroom stations with a sink and shower.

An office would provide a central location for oversight, staffing and other needs.

“In the absence of appropriate and attainable safe housing for a population facing significant barriers to housing, the TSOS is a safe alternative to illegal camps, or having people camp in neighborhoods or live in their cars,” said Madson.

attachment-Homeless Camp

The plan would have the camp fenced for security reasons with access of West Broadway and a second gate near Mullan Road. The parking lot would be paved and the site fully landscaped to help shield it from surrounding uses.

Because the property is owned by the county, Madson said it's permitted to deviate from current zoning. Surrounding properties currently include retail, finance, office, residential and local government operations.

“Government agencies can use public land contrary to local zoning. But when an event like this happens, a public hearing is required,” said Mathias.

If approved, the camp would open before winter.