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Missoula County: Cold-weather shelters on order for planned homeless camp

While the search for a location continues, Missoula County has ordered 30 shelters to house the homeless in its next iteration of a temporary safe outdoor space.

The $401,000 contract with Pallet includes 30 shelters measuring roughly 100 square feet. They’re equipped for cold-weather camping, according to Casey Gannon, the county’s shelter protection coordinator.

“They should arrive in about a month, around mid-November,” Gannon said. “That’s the plan as of now. We’re still working on the location and doing all our background work around that.”

The city and county of Missoula in June formed an incident team to explore a number of housing options around homelessness. The team suggested three particular needs, including a site to accommodate legal camping, a new location for a temporary safe outdoor space, and transitional housing.

Already, the team has identified city-owned property off North Reserve to accommodate a new legal camp. The county has applied for a permit from the state to open and operate the camp, which will replace the illegal Reserve Street camp once it opens.

The second step includes opening a new temporary safe outdoor space. Last winter, a collaboration of partners opened a similar site in south Missoula, which has been full for much of the time. The new iteration will include the 30 shelters ordered from Pallet, though a location hasn’t yet been determined.

“None of the sites we’re exploring have the base infrastructure we need to get up and go,” said Gannon. “With that November arrival time, the shelters will be put in storage until we’re ready to go. We’ll at least have them in hand.”

According to the county’s contract, the Pallet shelters were found to be “the most economical, realistic, quickest to deploy, and met the desired outcomes for hard-sided individual structures.”

“These structures are designed by individuals with ‘lived experience’ of being homeless,” the county contends. “These design considerations are lacking from other similar units. Because these units are engineered and collapsible, broken parts are easily acquired and interchangeable, and site placement does not require foundation.”