Just days after issuing a plea for blanket donations to help keep residents of a south-side homeless camp warm, the United Way of Missoula County got what it needed, and then some.
Susan Hay Patrick, the CEO of United Way, said more than 200 blanket donations were made, including some sleeping bags.
“This is more than enough to meet the need,” Patrick said. “The nights will be a little bit warmer, thanks to generous Missoulians.”
Earlier in the week, the United Way said the 20 residents still residing at the temporary safe outdoor space on the south side of Missoula were “struggling to keep warm” in their tents.
The camp was established before last winter and remains open, providing services and shelter to the city’s hard-to-reach homeless population. Over the past year, Patrick said around 30% of the camp’s occupants have moved on to stable housing after receiving help at the camp.
The city and county of Missoula are expected to open a new sanctioned outdoor camp in early January on city-owned property off North Reserve. That camp will replace the illegal camp under the Reserve Street bridge.
That site was recommended by an incident team created to explore an array of options under Operation Shelter. Efforts to address temporary shelter and transitional housing are also in the works under the unified plan.
The city and county this fall also directed addition funding to the emergency winter shelter off Johnson Street, including the cost of running the shelter and to attract – and keep – the staff needed to operate the shelter.
Patrick said the community’s response to the United Way’s request for blankets demonstrates its concern for the homeless population.
“On these frigid winter nights, when we’re so grateful for our own warm places to sleep, and warm blankets to sleep under, it’s incredibly gratifying that so many Missoulians are thinking about their unhoused neighbors, sleeping in unheated tents, at the temporary safe outdoor space,” she said.