HOPE Rescue mission is getting ready to welcome its first residents to their new Temporary Safe Outdoor Space located on West Broadway.
The development is in partnership with United Way of Missoula County and Missoula County as a way to provide a safe, weatherproof housing community for those experiencing homelessness. It is a new-and-improved version of the previous TSOS on Reserve Street.
The original TSOS site was an authorized camping site set up for people during the pandemic. The new site on West Broadway will include 30 hard-sided shelters equipped with beds, windows, heating and cooling, electricity, smoke alarms and emergency exits. The shelters were manufactured by the company Pallet.
For those accustomed to life at the tented TSOS site, these weather-proof homes will be life changing.
Selena Fraiser and her son Mathew have been living in a tent at the old TSOS since September, after the pipes in their trailer home froze. Fraiser is now on disability but only receives about $1,000 a month. Her son says they are unable to afford any sort of rent in town.
They were approved for a TSOS hard-sided shelter and will move into their new home on Thursday.
“It's better than the tents, yeah, for sure, got heat and stuff in it so that’ll be nice," Fraiser says.
For residents to be approved, they must first sign and agree to a list of rules including keeping their space clean and abstaining from drugs and alcohol. The site also bans firearms and violence.
The rules are put in place to foster positive, community relationships. In fact one of the items written in the agreement says "Uphold Good Neighbor Guidelines"
This "Good Neighbor" mentality is a key tool in helping folks move on from homelessness, according to HOPE Rescue Mission executive director, Jim Hicks.
“We’re all wired for relationships, right?" he says. "So through our staff, trying to continue to build these relationships, and then there begins to be some peer-to-peer accountability and support and helping each other move forward.”
The Temporary Safe Outdoor Space is meant to be just that: temporary. HOPE Rescue aims to transition all their residents into permanent housing as soon as possible. This is where staff support is needed.
“We are really looking for people who do want to move forward, they just don’t know how," Hicks says. "So there’s been so many instances where people may not even have an ID, no Social Security, so you can’t get housing and navigate what that looks like without that, so from those steps, all the way through to negotiating with rent, and property and saving money, so that they have something, thats the goal."
Later this year, United Way and HOPE Rescue will install hard-sided bathrooms and showers along with an office to house the employees. The site will be staffed 24/7 and includes locks on each shelter door to ensure security, something that was lacking at the Reserve Street tent site.
Fraiser and her son say feeling safe is very important to be able to live comfortably. They laughed as they remembered several bears walking through their tent site earlier this winter.
“Security is very helpful, especially when you’re dealing with a lot of people that are at rock bottom," Mathew says.
The site can hold up to 40 people with two people being able to stay in the same shelter, if they wish. Currently, the site does not allow children, but Hicks says they will try and find a way to change that.
The site's operational costs total $408,000 annually, but initial costs were around $1.5 million. Money awarded to the city and county through the Federal American Rescue Plan Act is being used to cover all shelter costs until the end of 2025.
More information on the TSOS can be found here.