We're proud to be part of a local coalition working on the Temporary Safe Outdoor Space.
What is the Temporary Safe Outdoor Space (TSOS)?
Missoula’s Temporary Safe Outdoor Space is a safe, healthy, secure, staffed (24/7) environment, that prioritizes serving – with dignity – people experiencing homelessness who are not accessing existing services or resources (approximately 30 people at one time). A goal of Missoula TSOS is to offer people a safe space and link them to appropriate, sustainable housing.
Missoula TSOS is a partnership between United Way of Missoula County, Hope Rescue Mission and other nonprofits, the faith community, law enforcement and other first responders, private businesses, county emergency management, and Reaching Home: Missoula United to Address Homelessness. It opened in mid-December of 2020 and currently houses 30-40 residents in hard-sided shelters, with a waiting list.
Missoula TSOS includes the following facilities and services:
Why is this necessary?
There are countless reasons people in our community need help with housing. Unfortunately, available services do not reach all unhoused people, or they face barriers to service access. Some may live on the streets or in their vehicles, which is dangerous during a Montana winter. Some may be U.S. Military veterans or working people who have lost their housing as rents increased. Some may live in unsafe environments, including urban camping. We have seen an increase in reports of people camping in local neighborhoods in locations that lack access to trash removal or bathrooms and pose an environmental, health, and safety hazard for those who are camping and the community.
Having a safe, legal, secure environment with health precautions and links to services reduces the demands on emergency responders and the health care system, and results in better outcomes for everyone.
Where is it?
Missoula’s TSOS is located on publicly owned land on Broadway, and near the new Trinity housing development.
How many households are expected to use the TSOS?
There are 30 hard-sided shelters—maximum occupancy: 40 people at one time.
How does this differ from the encampments on Reserve Street and elsewhere?
Missoula TSOS is a legal, staffed, secure site on public land with appropriate resources, including social services. It is a partnership between many diverse public, faith, and nonprofit stakeholders, all of whom believe this project can result in better outcomes for TSOS participants and the community as a whole.
Does the TSOS replace the Reserve Street and other urban encampments?
No. While more than half the people formerly occupying the Reserve Street camps moved to the TSOS voluntarily, an estimated 15-25 people remain in those camps. Case managers estimate that at least half of them would move if space was available at the TSOS, which is currently full. TSOS is a safe, legal, staffed option, which many in the Reserve Street encampments chose.
What are the requirements for staying in the TSOS?
The TSOS is considered a “low-barrier” site, and participation is behavior-based. All participants must initial and sign a written agreement – both when they enter initially and whenever they come and go from the site – that includes behavioral expectations, rights, and responsibilities. Only approved participants in TSOS are allowed on the property, with a no trespassing policy posted and enforced.
Who is managing the TSOS?
Logistics (equipment and services such as camp set-up and trash removal, propane, portable toilets) are being directed by United Way of Missoula County and supported by Missoula County’s Office of Emergency Management. Hope Rescue Mission, in partnership with members of the local faith community – principally River of Life and Cornerstone churches – manages the site, providing outreach and case management, with the goal of linking TSOS participants with services, including long-term housing.
How is it working?
So far, the TSOS has been operating as intended. Almost half of former TSOS residents have secured permanent housing or resolved their situation (entering treatment, reunifying with family); others have secured housing vouchers and hope to soon move into permanent housing. Some people who have lacked identification cards for many years have secured them, making them eligible to apply for jobs and/or benefits. Some are taking steps toward recovering from longstanding alcohol or drug problems and/or are seeking help for mental health issues. Many TSOS residents report feeling safe and secure for the first time in memory. Site managers report residents’ full compliance with the rules and conduct expectations at the TSOS.
There have been no law enforcement calls to the site. There have been a few medical-emergency responses at the site, principally for one resident who was having trouble managing his diabetes. The situation has been resolved.
How is the TSOS funded?
Set-up costs included the original tent-camping site off S Hwy 93, including site preparation, sleeping bags, tents, platforms, heating elements, and staffing. These costs were partially covered by federal CARES Act funding through December 31 and partially through community donations and support. Community partners involved in establishing the TSOS are actively seeking additional funding to sustain the site.
How long will the TSOS exist?
"Temporary" in TSOS refers to it being a short-term place for residents to stay while they work to stabilize their housing situation. As a successful component of Reaching Home's work, we envision the TSOS helping people into the foreseeable future.
Are there opportunities to support the TSOS?
GOODS: Donations of supplies and goods may be dropped at the Hope Thrift Boutique | Hope Rescue Mission (hopemontana.org) 702 SW Higgins. Please do not drop off donations at the TSOS. To apply to work or volunteer in the encampment: www.hopemontana.org; scroll down to the application form.
What else is important to know about the TSOS?
In the absence of appropriate, attainable, safe housing for a population facing significant barriers to housing, the TSOS was created as a COVID-safe alternative to the illegal Reserve Street camps and as an alternative to having people camp in neighborhoods or live in their cars. The TSOS did not create the longstanding issue of homelessness in our community, nor is it able to single-handedly solve it. While site backers and organizers are committed to the success of the TSOS, we also continue to work every day to advance the goals of Reaching Home: United in Missoula to Address Homelessness; i.e., to find and implement long-term solutions that will make homelessness in Missoula rare, brief, and nonrecurring.
For further information:
Susan Hay Patrick, CEO, United Way of Missoula County: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jim Hicks, Executive Director, Hope Rescue Mission: TSOS@hopemontana.org
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Working to ensure that everyone in Missoula has the tools they need to live a healthy life.