A project of this magnitude requires detailed planning as well as big-picture thinking. Following are details about the needs in Missoula as well as about the project, the campaign and the partnership between YWCA Missoula and Missoula Interfaith Collaborative. If you have any questions that aren’t addressed here, please feel free to

email us.

FAMILY HOMELESSNESS AND DOMESTIC & SEXUAL VIOLENCE

There are more homeless families in Missoula and across the country than you may realize. In Missoula there are typically up to 55 – 70 homeless families at any given time. That means around 110 kids, on average, with no place to call home. And that doesn’t count the families that are unstably housed—sleeping on couches or in spare rooms of friends or family, for example.

In 2017 YWCA Missoula served over 1,300 women, children and men who were victims of domestic violence or sexual assault. Nationally, an overwhelming majority of homeless women have experienced severe physical or sexual abuse at some point in their lives, and 63 percent have been victims of intimate partner violence as adults.

No family chooses to be homeless. Rather, most find themselves homeless due to circumstances that arise out of some combination of financial hardship, violence in the home, job loss, or lost or unaffordable housing. Studies show that as many as 57 percent of homeless women report that domestic violence was the immediate cause of their homelessness, and over 80 percent of mothers with children experiencing homelessness have previously experienced domestic violence.

Homelessness has a profound and often lasting impact on the emotional and physical health of children—starting from day one. Homelessness is linked in children to low birth weight, malnutrition, ear infections, exposure to environmental toxins, and chronic illnesses such as asthma. One in five homeless preschoolers have emotional problems that require professional care and 54 percent of homeless preschoolers experience a major developmental delay. Homeless elementary school students score lower on reading and math achievement tests compared to low-income housed students; and half of school-age homeless children experience problems with depression and anxiety. Homeless students are twice as likely to repeat a grade or be suspended from school. The list, unfortunately, goes on.

While unemployment is sometimes a cause of family homelessness, only 25 percent of homeless families have no income at all; the remainder find themselves caught between insufficient wages and other sources of income, and unmanageable rent and other expenses. With the cost of housing continuing to rise in Missoula, even families with employment sometimes can’t afford the upfront costs of a damage / security deposit(s) and rent.

Nationally the average length of stay in emergency shelter for families is approximately 30 days. In Missoula, at the new center each family will work with a case manager to set goals, and then will meet with their case manager weekly to follow up on progress. The goal will be to rehouse people as quickly as possible and then provide ongoing support to ensure that they remain stably housed for the long term.

THE NEW FACILITY

The new facility will be located on 1.62 acres of land on West Third Street, near the Good Food Store and Marchie’s Nursery. The land was purchased by YWCA Missoula in early 2018.

The 36,750-square-foot facility is designed to accommodate up to 31 homeless families and up to 13 families who are survivors of domestic violence.

Each room will provide security, privacy and comfort while also connecting families to a sense of community. Rooms will have four beds, a private bath and some limited storage space.

There will be large shared kitchens and dining areas, with space for individual families to store food and cook for themselves or share a meal with others. Each floor will have a TV and family lounge area with activities for children as well as study spaces. There will also be outdoor courtyards where children and families can play and relax, plus indoor spaces for quiet contemplation and privacy. Residents will also have access to an on-site health care clinic.

Dinners will be provided by Family Promise volunteers. Residents will provide breakfasts, lunches and any additional food for themselves.

Of course, we can’t predict who will become homeless when. Seasonal and other factors do cause the number of homeless families to fluctuate. But by providing enough rooms to house all local unsheltered families and by providing support services and rental assistance to help rapidly move them into permanent housing, the family housing center is designed to allow us to permanently house more families each month than the number of families experiencing homelessness in Missoula.

Getting families into permanent housing as quickly as possible and then providing them support for extended periods of time is the best way to prevent chronic homelessness. YWCA Missoula and Family Promise will work with families in two ways: first, by assisting at-risk families to prevent homelessness; and second, through ongoing case management and rapid rehousing that supports people with their security deposit payments and rent assistance for up to 12 months.

YWCA Missoula is meeting with the neighbors in the area to discuss and resolve any safety concerns. The facility will have 24-hour staffing, as well as security cameras monitoring the perimeter of the building and internal hallways. A security specialist is assisting the YWCA in designing appropriate security measures.

Yes, parking along the right side of the building as well as underground will accommodate all residents of the facility as well as staff.

There will be a curfew for residents of the building. It will be a smoke-free and alcohol-free, drug-free facility.

Families must have dependent children in order to stay at the homeless family center. Priority will be given to Missoula County residents. Residents of other counties or communities will be referred to their closest shelter. Clients in the domestic violence shelter may be single individuals with or without children. Pets will not be allowed in the center, with the exception of certified service animals.

Missoula is a regional hub for a range of services, including social services. However, the vast majority of homeless families served by YWCA Missoula and the Missoula Interfaith Collaborative are Missoula residents. Nobody chooses to become homeless. When families do become homeless they typically work hard to preserve a sense of stability for their children. Moreover, YWCA Missoula’s approach to diversion puts a strong emphasis on stabilizing families in the communities where they already live. The homeless families who come to Missoula from another community are typically fleeing unsafe circumstances.

SERVICES & PROGRAMS

YWCA Missoula and Family Promise staff and volunteers will provide housing counseling, ongoing case management to assist families in achieving their housing and employment goals, and deposit and rental assistance funds to quickly move families into permanent housing and help them retain housing.

Services at the center will include a comprehensive and trauma-sensitive children’s program, school liaisons to help children who are transferring schools, a health care clinic, and various workshops and classes provided by partner organizations in the community.

This project implements key goals of the City of Missoula 2014-2018 Consolidated Plan and the 2017 Annual Action Plan by reaching out to homeless (and especially unsheltered) people to assess their individual needs and address their emergency shelter and transitional housing needs. The new facility will serve as a front door for Missoula’s Coordinated Entry System for homeless families and individuals and will implement several elements of the city’s 10-year plan including three Core Themes, three Strategies & Outcomes, two Best Practices, and all three Guiding Principles. Finally, the 2016 Missoula Community Needs Assessment identified a family homelessness shelter as the number one public facility need; this project will resolve that need for our community.

No. The new facility will allow us to meet the community’s need while providing more privacy, more resources for children, and a more safe and secure building.

This new facility will be the home for the YWCA as we enter our second century of service to the community, housing all but one of our current programs. The new facility will include an expanded domestic violence shelter, the YWCA’s service center and a new family housing center operated in partnership with the MIC Family Promise program. Secret Seconds, the YWCA thrift stores, will continue to operate as they do today, in the Kensington Street and West Broadway locations.

The future of our current building is still under consideration. We anticipate that the YWCA’s Planet Kids program will still operate out of that building. Beyond that, we are considering options.

Family Promise will continue its important work at the new facility. There will be office space for staff and volunteers on-site. The new facility will allow the housing programs of the YWCA and Family Promise to work together more efficiently and effectively to meet the needs of Missoula’s homeless families. In the event of short-term needs for more housing than the new facility can accommodate, Family Promise will still be able to house two to three families at local congregations.

No. The YWCA and MIC Family Promise will collaborate on the family housing center wing only.

THE CAMPAIGN & PARTNERSHIP

Considerable time was spent to develop a prospectus that addresses ongoing operational needs at the new facility. No doubt, there will be new expenses involved because the facility will include not only the YWCA’s current programs but also a new family housing center. However, new efficiencies will be gained by replacing the current aging facilities of the YWCA, and centralizing and coordinating the work of YWCA Missoula and Family Promise on family homelessness and rehousing. Our projections indicate that once the new facility is built, we will be able to pull together the resources and people to operate it to its best potential.

The family housing center program will be guided by a management team comprising the executive directors of the YWCA and MIC, and other individuals as appointed.

No. The Missoula Interfaith Collaborative is working with the YWCA to raise funds to support the family housing center component of the new facility. Both organizations will partner to operate the family housing center in the central location for the long term. But both organizations will continue to independently work toward their respective missions through existing and new programs.

MIC’s Family Promise program will provide three to four volunteers each evening to serve and share meals with families in the family housing center. Family Promise volunteers will also support facility cleaning and room changes, and will provide overnight support. MIC’s Housing Advocate Network will also support families with one-on-one mentoring to find housing and, as families would like to, will continue to mentor families during their first year in their new homes.

No. The Family Promise program brings together faith communities, businesses and community organizations that are committed to providing hospitality to families in transition and to walking alongside them to help rebuild their lives. Though many volunteers are motivated by faith, the Family Promise program and its volunteers do not conduct any religious activities or proselytize.