A Letter from the Executive Director: Security at the Poverello Center

 

Friends and Neighbors,

I’m sure many of you have seen news stories around the City of Missoula hiring security at the Poverello. The headline was probably startling for many because the word security means different things to different people. Unfortunately, what has been in the press so far doesn’t show a complete picture. I thought it would be best to communicate directly to our supporters and stakeholders to answer some of your questions and concerns. 

Recently, the City of Missoula signed a contract with Roger’s International to provide security to the Cedar St/Hawthorne and Johnson/North Ave neighborhoods. Like you, we have mixed feelings about this. We want to ensure the safety of our staff, guests, and the neighborhood, but we do not want to make it harder for people to access our services, especially during the cold months. 

For the past year, Roger’s International has had a contract with the Hope Rescue Mission to provide services and support to the Temporary Safe Outdoor Space (TSOS). Rogers’ International works to offer site-specific services tailored to each location. They are familiar with Missoula, and we have been in contact with them. So far, their work has come from a place of relationship building rather than authoritarian.  

However, this is not a company that the Poverello Center has hired, and we do not get to control the contract. So, we are doing our best to coordinate with the City of Missoula and Roger’s International to make sure anyone seeking to access our services receives the dignity and respect they deserve. We know that individuals experiencing homelessness are in crisis and depend on us to help keep them safe. We will do everything we can to ensure that specific training emphasizing trauma-informed care and de-escalation techniques is an integral part of the plan. 

In addition, the personnel from Roger’s International are not providing any services inside either the Poverello Center or the Johnson Street Winter Shelter buildings unless specifically requested by staff members working on site. We expect their personnel will spend most of their time in the areas around these locations, not directly outside these buildings. 

Homelessness, safety, and access is a complex issue. There is no easy answer. We will continue to do our part to work with the City to find strategies to address the concerns that affect our community. We are working hard to be a good neighbor, but being a good neighbor also means supporting those in our community who need our help. We are cautiously optimistic that we can find a path forward to utilize this additional support in a constructive way. We will continually monitor the situation and adjust as necessary. 

Our mission to provide food, shelter, help, and hope to all who ask is still our number one priority. We thank you for your continued support of us. If you have questions or concerns, please reach out.

 

Sincerely,

Jill Bonny
MSW, SWLC | she/her
Executive Director | Poverello Center, Inc.
jbonny@thepoverellocenter.org