Missoula Homelessness, Once Declining, Now Upticking

by William Skink

In January Missoula service providers conducted the point-in-time survey, an annual count of people experiencing homelessness. A few months ago the data was released and preliminary results indicated homelessness was down:

Preliminary numbers from the annual Point-in-Time study show Missoula’s homeless numbers went down this year. Now, experts wonder what the pandemic means for next year.

In Missoula’s district, which includes Missoula, Mineral and Ravalli counties, 354 people were marked as homeless. That’s down from the peak in 2015 at 538 but up from our low point in 2005 at 245.

Today the reporting from NBC Montana has the Poverello telling a different story:

Montana’s largest homeless shelter is seeing an uptick in those living unsheltered.

“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.

I don’t doubt an uptick is happening. Part of that is the usual seasonal uptick. And I’m sure the ripples are starting, though it won’t be until the end of this month where things will get a little more serious for a lot more people.

I wonder what the plan will be this year when the cold returns. I don’t think the Salvation Army has been open for day services since the pandemic got serious here in the states, and I somehow doubt the city has enough Covid money to entice them to open their doors to winter overflow.

The city will have the Sleepy Inn, will that be part of the winter solution? Or does the Mayor have other solutions in mind?

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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4 Responses to Missoula Homelessness, Once Declining, Now Upticking

  1. TC says:

    I will defer to your lived experience but I never really believed in the “Point-Time” survey. It is always conducted in the bitterness of January when people are less likely to be out and about (represented). It also seems to lack consistency of evaluators from year to year. In short, I feel that it under-represents the true scope of the issue. As support of this our School Board stated that they had around 500 children that were homeless (or at least without permanent housing).
    Therefore, I believe that the City/Pov manipulate this survey to artificially show that their efforts are improving the homeless situation.
    I Believe the issue is bigger than represented and agree with you that Covid/Winter 2020-2021 will only increase the numbers greatly. Whether the public is told the true numbers/nature remains to be seen.

    • I probably should have reiterated my total lack of faith in the point-in-time survey for the reasons you mentioned.

      I have said more than a few times the survey is more a reflection of the effort put in by service providers than it is a reflection of how many people in our community are experiencing homelessness. if you give gift cards one year for completing the survey, then cook up a nice pancake breakfast the next year, then cut back on incentives the following year, yes, results are going to vary widely.

      the point-in-time data is used politically when city leadership needs PR cover. conversely, if more funding is required, then one can reference an “uptick” in need.

  2. TC says:

    Perfectly summarized!

  3. Pingback: The PR Charade Of Claiming Homeless Numbers In Missoula Are Going Down Is Finally Over | Reptile Dysfunction

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