Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) At the request of the Poverello Center, Missoula County on Tuesday agreed to amend its contract with the organization to provide an additional $36,000 to help staff the emergency winter shelter during nighttime hours.

The Missoula City Council is expected to do the same on Wednesday. Combined, the added $70,000 in revenue – plus $42,000 provided by Montana Human Resource Development Council – would bring the shelter's increase to around $121,000 for the current season.

“They're seeing about 160 folks a night, which is about 30 more than their normal capacity,” said Chris Lounsbury, the county's CAO. “They're having to open additional space at the emergency winter shelter in order to be able to accommodate that.”

For the second consecutive winter, the city and county have directed several thousand dollars in American Rescue Plan Act funding to operate and manage the winter shelter in partnership with the Poverello. And for the second year, they've also amended the contract to direct additional revenue toward the shelter for staffing.

Both the city and county's original contract with the shelter for winter services was $350,000 this year. The increase will bring that contribution to $385,000 from each government.

Lounsbury said the additional revenue will enable the shelter to increase staffing, add additional sleeping space and increase services like food supply and garbage removal.

“That includes additional staff, additional food and additional space,” said Lounsbury. “They need additional staff for overnight hours.”

To the opposition of two City Council members, the city withheld around $700,000 in ARPA funds this year to fund the winter shelter next year in the event that the crisis services levy didn't pass. Voters didn't support the measure in November.

After next winter, funding the winter shelter could be challenging, city and county officials have said.

“We budgeted our ARPA funds through our FY '24 budget, so we have set aside a little over $2 million for mental health and homeless services for next year's budget,” said Lounsbury.

Commissioners on Tuesday added that hard-sided shelters at the temporary safe outdoor space off Broadway and Mullan Road were going up this week.