KGVO News reached out to Missoula County Commissioners Josh Slotnick and Dave Strohmaier on Tuesday for a status update on the new hard-sided shelters that will eventually replace the Temporary Safe Outdoor Space.

Slotnick was aware of a recent rumor that for some reason the structures from the Pallet company did not meet city or county building codes. Slotnick said the delay in constructing the pallet shelters has nothing to do with building permits, but everything to do with an ‘approach permit’.

“We're awaiting an approach permit from MDT (the Montana Department of Transportation), so we can have an approach from Broadway onto the site where the Trinity apartments are, and this road will also access the rear of the Detention Center,” began Slotnick. “We're waiting on an approach permit from MDT because West Broadway is a state highway. So if we want to add an entrance of a new road onto Broadway, we have to ask MDT’s permission and that permit that comes in the form of an approach permit.”

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Slotnick described the new hard-sided structures from the website

“They are made of a thick fiberglass plastic type material,” he said. “They're insulated. They're heated and air conditioned. I think they're about 120 square feet. They come flat and you can bolt them together and they look sort of like a child's drawing of a house where you'd have a square with a triangle on top of it as the roof. It's just a tiny little bedroom space that is temperature regulated and you can plug in it in, and that's where the electricity, the heating and the air conditioning come from.”

Slotnick said the cost per unit is extremely attractive for the county’s use to provide shelter for homeless persons.

“The cost $8,500 apiece,” he said. “So this is something that we're pretty excited about. $8,500 compared to the fact that it costs millions of dollars to build apartment buildings. So this is a pretty low cost way of getting someone out of the weather and off the street and out of camping in places where they're not supposed to be.”

Commissioner Strohmaier said permanent housing for those currently in the TSOS shelter is the eventual goal.

“Right now the goal will be to try to find permanent housing for these folks who will be located here,” said Strohmaier. “So it's basically exactly what we're seeing at the current temporary safe outdoor space. Rhett with the big qualifier that these are much better shelters to live in. It's outside the floodplain, and it's on public property, not on private land.”

Slotnick had words of praise for the staff and management of the TSOS for their success rate in finding permanent housing for their clients.

“According to Jim Hicks, who runs the Hope Rescue Mission, 49 percent of the people who have been at the Temporary Safe Outdoor Space are now in more permanent housing. And that's not because they broke into the rental market. It's because the service rich environment there allowed them to improve their mental health a little bit enough so that they can reconnect with family, and those folks are now for the most part, staying with family.”

Over $1 million in ARPA funds were used in part to purchase the hard-sided shelters which will be placed near the Trinity Apartments, once the MDT issues the ‘approach permit’.

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