MISSOULA, Mont. — In an effort to better serve Montana’s estimated 165 homeless veterans, the Poverello Center is planning to move the Housing Montana Heroes program from the second floor of the Pov to the Clark Fork Inn.
"The veterans have a separate wing, community room, laundry, really it's placed away from the rest of the shelter," said executive director of the Poverello Center Jill Bonny. "But it's still sitting on top of a congregate shelter setting."
Bonny says the VA wants to shift these programs into non-congregate shelter with private rooms, bathrooms and services.
The Clark Fork Inn property is .29 acres with 17 rooms now, that will be expanded to 20. Preliminary plans show renovating the nine units on the west side of the L-shaped building and demolishing the north side, turning that section into two stories. The existing two-story building on the southeast corner of the lot will stay the same.
The VA is giving the Pov $1 million to help. Other funds include roughly $1.7 million combined from the city and county. The Pov is also requesting help from the county to apply for a $600,000 community development block grant.
They plan to break ground late this year, but officials won’t know the final budget until they get bids from construction companies.
"There’s quite a bit of infrastructure work to get water to the property to the capacity to support more units," said Marie Wilson with In2itive Architecture. "Currently there's only a well on the property."
The rooms will be handicap accessible, and dependents will be able to stay with a veteran parent.
But critics say the initiative is concentrating low-income initiatives downtown.
"We’re ending up with high proportion of low-income people in two neighborhoods in the city and the rest of the city and county not sharing the burden," said participant John Wolverton.
But Bonny says the Pov is the best buyer for the property and they’re helping current residents relocate.
The location also allows veterans to be close to services as the Poverello Center makes an effort to better serve Montana’s heroes facing homelessness.