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Missoula’s new $12M YWCA shelter opens after years of work

(KPAX) Missoula has a high homeless population compared to other parts of the state and a large portion of that population is homeless families.

It’s a problem compounded by the pandemic, but a new service aims to help those families escape domestic violence, and get back on their feet.

On any given night in Missoula, 50 families are homeless but the YWCA’s new shelter – the Meadowlark – is hoping to bring more resources to address that.

“No child or parent should go without a home,” said Missoula Interfaith Collaborative executive director Casey Dunning. “If a family loses their housing, or needs to get out of a domestic violence situation, they’re going to have a safe place to go.”

The building on Third Street has room to house many of those families while also offering resources on site.

“Thirty-eight private sleeping rooms, for families and survivors of domestic violence, health care, and legal clinics, shared living and dining areas, youth play spaces,” explained YWCA Missoula executive director Cindy Weese.

During Thursday’s ribbon-cutting, Weese said the facility will offer new hope for Missoula children that grow up witnessing violence.

“We can impact a generation of kids so that they can grow up and live healthy, productive lives so that they aren’t impacted long term by their experience as a child,” Weese said.

The project has been in the works for years, in conjunction with a campaign to raise awareness about homeless families.

“The See Them Home Campaign was successful, because of the generosity of Missoulian’s giving their own resources, not for their own benefit, but to improve the lives of others who are less fortunate,” said Weese.

She added that about 1,000 people made private donations.

But she also expressed concern for the end goal, as Missoula’s housing market continues to change. “Now I’m concerned that families are going to have to reside with us for much longer than we anticipated.”

Officials said they hope to permanently house the families and will do their best to see that through. In the meantime, they’re glad to give families a safe place to sleep.

“The people who will be living here will be just as much my neighbors as you folks,” said MMW Architects Principal Architect Colin Lane.

Some families will start moving in as early as this weekend.

The $12 million project was funded in part by Community Development Block Grants, campaign funds and community donations.