City of Missoula claims data milestone in tracking homeless trends
(Missoula Current) An effort to identify and track homeless individuals in Missoula reached a milestone with the city saying it now has updated information on each person and can refer to the data in real-time.
The program, dubbed Built for Zero, represents a collaboration of U.S. cities and counties working to “measurably and equitably” reduce homelessness. The city joined the program in 2022.
"Missoula's participation in the Built for Zero movement is a great opportunity for our community,” said Emily Armstrong, the city's homeless programs manager. “In a short time, we have already made incredible progress with the support of Built for Zero coaches.”
Among other things, Armstrong said the achievements include collecting quality data, building a coalition of community partners and landing a grant to continue its Built for Zero work for the next few years.
Over the past year and a half, Armstrong said the city and partnering agencies have worked with program coaches to improve current policies and systems within its network of homeless programs.
They include a process to better follow up with those who self-resolve their episode of homelessness, and a coordinated outreach plan to improvement coverage. It also includes new partnerships with local organizations that serve refugees and university students who are experiencing homelessness.
“This aggregate data allows Missoula to see how the demographics of its homeless population change over time,” said Armstrong. “We can drill down to find out if Missoula is experiencing an increase in homelessness among older adults, or whether new resources helped decrease veteran homelessness.”
She added that the wider picture enables the city to observe trends, decide where to focus support or investments, and find ways to make improvements in pursuit of the ultimate goal of ending homelessness in Missoula.
"Communities in the Built for Zero initiative are demonstrating that homelessness is solvable,” Morgan Smith with Community Solutions said in a statement. “We're thrilled that the team from Missoula has joined the movement and are already seeing exceptional progress.”
Armstrong said that while the city ended it's original “10 Year Plan to End Homelessness” last year, the ensuing evaluation credited the plan for a number of achievements, including the creation of the city's Coordinated Entry System and building both the Trinity and Villagio housing projects, which offer both affordable housing and transitional housing for the homeless.