MISSOULA, Mont. — Montana’s largest homeless shelter is seeing an uptick in those living unsheltered.
Poverello Center officials say new COVID-19 relief funding from Missoula County will help them find housing.
So far, the shelter’s had no coronavirus cases, but one consequence of the disease is that more people are seeking shelter outdoors.
“We have pretty significant growth of people who are experiencing unsheltered homelessness, so they are out in the community, so I think people in Missoula are seeing that as they see the encampments grow,” Poverello Center director of development and advocacy Jesse Jaeger said.
The center received $4,500 from Missoula County commissioners’ COVID-19 relief fund. Organizers will put it toward a new initiative -- the Phones for Housing Project.
The shelter will give 60 individuals phones and 20 other people minutes toward phones they already have.
Officials say across the country homelessness could increase dramatically within the next few months or year.
At the Poverello, officials say they are doing what they can now to get ahead of that, and the Phones for Housing Project is just a start.
“There’s more people sleeping outside. We expect that’s going to continue to grow as the economic consequences of this pandemic move forward. Some national organizations are predicting that homelessness across the country could increase by 40%,” Jaeger said.
Jaeger says the project is just part of a larger effort to better serve those experiencing unsheltered homelessness.
“Better access to case management services, addiction support, mental health support, getting to clinics and so that we can be reaching out to them, readily helping them get housed as quickly as possible,” said Jaeger.
The end goal remains the same -- to find housing for those who need it.