Missoula's Temporary Safe Outdoor Space: A year in review

Courtesy: Hope Rescue Mission 

MISSOULA, Mont. - In December 2020, the Temporary Safe Outdoor Space opened in Missoula, sparking concerns and questions from community members about things like litter and safety. 

It's a legal and staffed campsite that houses up to 40 people at a time. It's managed by the Hope Rescue Mission, along with support from United Way Missoula and Missoula County. 

One year later, Hope Rescue Mission shared statistics of the site's success. 

The organization reports the space has served 86 people, so far. 

Of those 86, 27 have moved into permanent housing, two have entered into a treatment program, 15 have received photo IDs and 8 got into case management for the first time, which are both big first steps. 

However, 12 people also had to be removed from the site for not complying with rules. 

Jim Hicks, Executive Director at Hope Rescue Mission, said this year was a big learning curve. 

"Everyday was a learning experience," Hicks said. "Some days, we earned an 'F.' We didn't hit the mark, but overall, we are so happy to see people move forward. That was the intent. That's why the word 'temporary' is there, both in location and we didn't want people to just come and live there, we wanted to empower them to move forward to the next level in their life. 

Missoula County helps support the site with logistics and finances.

Recently, it provided new white wall tents that are more sustainable, especially in the winter months.

Moving forward, the lease for the site's current property is up in May. The county and Hope Rescue Mission are working to find a new, more permanent property with access to services and better infrastructure. 

Casey Gannon, Missoula County's shelter project coordinator, said they'll be proposing a new site to the commissioners in the coming weeks. 

In addition to talking with the Hope Rescue Mission and the county, Wake Up Montana also reached out to the South Missoula Businessmen Group. However, no one was comfortable with publicly sharing their experiences. 

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