The Missoula County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to grant 4 acres of land near the county detention center for development of a low-income and supportive housing project known as Trinity Apartments. 

“This is a good, important project, and ties in nicely with the Jail Diversion Master Plan,” said Missoula County Sherriff T.J. McDermott.

The jail diversion plan was adopted by Missoula County and the city of Missoula in 2016, and updated in 2018. It's designed to help non-violent offenders – many of whom struggle with mental health and addiction issues – avoid lengthy and costly jail sentences and get their lives back on track.  

The housing project will include a center that helps people re-enter the community from the criminal justice system, and will support law enforcement, local hospitals and emergency responders answering calls related to homelessness and addiction. Services will include harm reduction, health care, and behavioral and mental health evaluation and support. 

“There’s a direct link between this project and public safety,” said County Commission Chairman Dave Strohmaier. “This is a game-changer for the broader Missoula community.” 

According to county commissioners, the project will help also help achieve the goals outlined in Missoula’s 10-year plan to end homelessness, which calls for development of “permanent, supportive housing.” 

Commissioner Josh Slotnick said he was excited that both the “public and private sector” could come together to “provide affordable housing for the chronically homeless and support those in need.”  

The team of developers for the project includes the Missoula Housing Authority, BlueLine Development and Homeword, a Missoula-based nonprofit dedicated to providing safe, healthy, affordable housing for those in need. No taxpayer funds will be used for development and operation of the complex. 

Trinity Apartments will be a combination of low-income and supportive housing options, including 30 homes for individuals and families earning below 30 percent of the area median income and 100 homes for those earning below 70 percent of area median income.

Thirty of those 100 homes will be available for those experiencing “chronic homelessness” and will include rental assistance. In addition, there will be an on-site “navigation center” operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to provide support for residents.

Trinity Apartments will be required to provide annual documentation and certification that the county's donated land is being used for the intended purposes, and that it complies with all related federal and state regulations and standards. Otherwise, the land will be returned to the county under a “reversionary clause” included in the grant. 

The four acres are an undeveloped portion of 21.58 acres acquired by the county in 1996, using money raised from a $17 million bond issue approved by county voters for the purpose of building the Missoula County Detention Center. The bonds and debt service have been paid in full and are no longer on the tax rolls.

Although a few people, including former Missoula County Commissioner Jean Curtiss, expressed concerns about the transfer of the county lands acquired through a public-approved bond, most public comments were in favor of the land donation and subsequent low-income development.