MISSOULA, Mont. - In and around downtown Missoula, it seems more and more tents are popping up as shelters, like the Poverello Center, continue to limit capacity due to COVID-19.
As the weather begins to shift, the Poverello Center is working to prepare for the colder winter months while keeping health and safety measures at the forefront.
Right now, the center is dealing with more people experiencing unsheltered homelessness and more people experiencing homelessness for the first time than every before.
According to Jesse Jaeger, director of development and advocacy, the Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) worked with 271 people who are experiencing unsheltered homelessness between June 1 and August 31, 2021.
During that same time period in 2020, HOT worked with 144 people. Pre-pandemic, the team was generally working with about 100 people in an entire year, Jaeger said.
On top of that, there's a COVID-19 outbreak among the homeless community.
The shelter is facing its highest numbers of positive cases since the pandemic started.
Because of that outbreak, the city-owned Sleepy Inn is open again to give people a place to quarantine.
Jaeger explained how that space provides some relief for surrounding hospitals.
"We did hear stories that the hospitals were having challenges because they had people that were COVID-19 positive that could probably be released into a space that was indoors to heal, but they couldn’t release them because we wouldn’t be able to bring them into the shelter, because we didn’t have a quarantine place in the shelter," he said. "So, they were taking up space in the hospitals.”
The center is also working to get more people vaccinated with incentives. Last week, 55 people in the pov community received vaccines.
With more and more people in tents, Jaeger explained it's harder to get them things they need or help them into housing.
The Poverello Center is working with the city and county to finalize a winter shelter location and is planning to open that November 1.
However, there will still be people who opt to stay outside.
Before the winter shelter opens, the Poverello Center will be fundraising with Pumpkins for the Pov starting October 1.
You can purchase a $10 pumpkin and help provide food and shelter to those who need it.
Pumpkins for the Pov will be available at these locations:
- Good Food Store at 1600 S 3rd St W
- Rattlesnake Market at 2501 Rattlesnake Dr.
- YMCA Missoula at 3000 S Russell St
- Imagine Nation Brewery at 1151 W Broadway St
- The Trough at 2106 Clements Rd
- Parkside Credit Union Locations at 320 W Broadway St, 4055 Brooks St and 2300 Great Northern Ave