This summer I had the great pleasure and opportunity to become the Poverello Center’s new Executive Director. Having spent seven years working here at the Pov, I know exactly how big of a job it is and how important the organization is to our community.
As I entered this new role I have thought a lot about our mission to provide food, shelter, help, and hope to all who ask. We spend a lot of time talking about food and shelter, but it is important to remember that providing help and hope are equally important.
Help and hope speak to the aspiration we have for the community we hope to build between our guests, staff and volunteers, while food and shelter describe the tangible resources we provide. It is during these winter months that our mission comes into clear focus.
When reflecting on last year’s winter shelter with my colleagues, one major theme that stood out was the need to get services to folks who otherwise would not access emergency shelter services. The most compelling success stories came from some of the more challenging situations we experienced at the shelter.
Joanna, a 19-year-old client, stayed at the Johnson Street Emergency Winter Shelter for a few months in order to get out of the cold and figure out her next steps. As a young native woman, Joanna was hesitant to access Poverello services at first. Her hesitancy came from past negative experiences with service providers whom she felt did not understand her cultural background. As a result, she began to feel hopeless that she would ever find services that truly recognized her as an individual.
Although Joanna was apprehensive at first, one of our staff members, who is also Native American, was able to build a strong connection with her in order to address her concerns and build an understanding of how the Pov could truly help.
Due to the accessibility created by Johnson St. Emergency Winter Shelter staff are better able to help people who may not otherwise access day-time services. Through the work of our team, we were able to provide Joanna with help and hope by connecting her to community resources such as the Youth Homelessness Demonstration Project and other local partner organizations.
This work is made possible by your support and financial contributions. The expanded capacity we have been able to provide the Missoula community over the past year and a half continues to allow us to serve as many people as possible, as safely as possible.
Our staff is twice the size it was before the COVID-19 pandemic, and although funding has also expanded, it does not cover all new expenses. This expanded staff is working hard everyday to keep people like Joanna alive and help them take that next step into having a house again. By donating to the Poverello Center you are joining our team to make this possible.
For every $140 donated, you will join the Poverello Center in making sure that someone experiencing houselessness has a warm place to stay and three healthy meals a day for a week, while getting connected to the resources they need to find stable housing.
Your contributions help ensure that no one dies from exposure in Missoula this winter. Investing in the Poverello Center is investing in the betterment of our community and the lives of underserved individuals. Providing food, shelter, help and hope to all who ask makes this hard work worth it.
Jill Bonny, MSW
Poverello Center, Inc.
P.S: We are transitioning our language from “homeless” to “houseless” because the term better describes people in situations where they do not have a brick and mortar house, but consider nontraditional spaces as their home. The individuals we work with are incredibly resilient and work hard to build a home every day with those around them even though they do not have a house to build that home in. Using the term “houseless” recognizes that a lot more goes into a home than just the building itself.