Comments from Johnson Street Shelter Open House in Missoula
Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - We attended the Johnson Street Emergency Shelter Open House on Wednesday evening and spoke with a number of officials who will be serving the homeless population this fall and winter, in addition to speaking with a Ward 6 Missoula City Councilor.
Poverello Center Executive Director Jill Bonny provided details on the layout of the shelter and the number of people it can serve.
The Johnson Street Emergency Shelter Open House was on Wednesday Night
“Currently we can sleep 165 individuals, but if people just need to come in and get out of the elements, we can actually have up to 180 people in the building,” began Bonny. “When it got so cold so quickly (last winter), we actually tore down a wall here in the building to make more sleeping space, and because of that, we just never had to turn anybody away because of the elements last year and so I'm hoping that will be the same this year.”
Sophia Schrom works with the Poverello Center’s HOT team (Homeless Outreach Team) and told KGVO how she and her teammates serve the homeless population year-round.
“We are out in the community,” said Schrom. “We serve people who can't stay in shelter or prefer not to stay in shelter because it's a pretty overstimulating environment for a lot of people, and we try to meet their basic needs. We bring food out to people every day. We also try to connect them to the other resources in Missoula, since they're not at the Poverello (Center). They're not as close to those resources, so that's a big part of what we do.”
Black Knight Security will be Handling the Security at the Shelter
There has been a great deal of publicity about what occurs outside and adjacent to the shelter. Owner of Black Knight Security, Wade Herbert outlined the limited authority he and his team have as they patrol the area.
“Anything that's private property, we don't have any authority on that, so that refers to people that are concerned about their own home and their own yard, and that's a police matter,” said Herbert. “We really can't help with that because our contract is with the City of Missoula. So, on the City of Missoula property, we have authority, but outside of that we don't have any authority. However, I think the fact that my staff is out and about and people see us and they know why we're here, we'll continue to help that, but as far as authority, we just don't have any authority on people's private property.”
Ward 6 City Councilor Sandra Vasecka says City Must 'Criminalize Criminal Behavior'
KGVO News also spoke to Ward 6 City Councilor Sandra Vasecka, who has been an outspoken opponent of the shelter which is located in her ward. She said those individuals, whether they are homeless or not, should abide by the law like all other citizens.
“Criminalize criminal behavior,” began Vasecka. “Nip it in the bud. If I am beholden to the same laws that all of my constituents are, then this population should be beholden to the same laws. If you want to live in a civilized society, you have to adhere by civilized society rules, so if you don't want to do that, then go somewhere else; go into the woods, go to a different country. I mean, good go to where that is allowed. If you want to live within public infrastructure, streets, roads and services, then you have to adhere to those rules, and if you're not going to (adhere to those rules) then there should be a punishment.”
The shelter is set to open this month and will remain open through the winter. The plan is to fund the shelter with support from both the city and the county. The city plans to use $1.7 million which could come from funds leftover from the ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) provided to Missoula during the COVID pandemic.