Missoula school district: Don't move Poverello near Lowell Elementary

2011-10-11T23:00:00Z 2014-10-19T08:10:49Z Missoula school district: Don't move Poverello near Lowell ElementaryBy JAMIE KELLY of the Missoulian missoulian.com
October 11, 2011 11:00 pm  • 

The Missoula County Public Schools district has come out against a plan to relocate the Poverello Center to the former Trail's End site on West Broadway.

In a Tuesday afternoon meeting with Poverello officials, two board members and MCPS Superintendent Alex Apostle objected to the proposed site, saying it's too close to Lowell Elementary School.

"Our feeling is that as a board, we are very concerned about the Pov being three blocks away from an elementary school," said MCPS board president Toni Rehbein, who was at the meeting with trustee Scott Bixler and Apostle, along with three Poverello officials.

There were no quorums among members of either board, so the meeting was held outside the requirements for public advertisement or notice.

The location of the homeless shelter and soup kitchen has created enormous debate over the needs of Missoula's homeless residents and their impact on the safety of others.

Tuesday's meeting did not mean that MCPS has an official position on the Trail's End site, but Rehbein said the board and Apostle are firmly against moving the Pov to the West Broadway location.

"Would it be responsible for us to say that there is no way this will pose a problem?" Rehbein said. "I think a reasonable person would say no."

Apostle specifically objected to the proposed new location after hearing from many parents whose children live in the neighborhood and attend Lowell School. He forwarded all questions to Rehbein when reached late Tuesday afternoon.

Eran Fowler Pehan, interim executive director of the Poverello, was at Tuesday's meeting and said she understands the feelings of parents and educators, insisting that the Poverello is intent on "being a good neighbor."

"I have nothing specific to add, other than we're committed to working with neighbors and the district," said Pehan, reached Tuesday night.

Statistics printed in the Missoulian and available online reveal a high number of sex offenders in the neighborhood surrounding the Poverello Center, including numerous ones in the facility itself, said Rehbein. The district is not willing to support a new location when it is so close to a school, she said. However, the board has no plans to approve an official statement or position on the relocation plan, she said.

"We want the public to know that as far as our children are concerned, our first purpose is the safety of our children," she said.

Pehan said the West Broadway location is still one of the three viable alternatives for a location - one that includes an expansion of its current site on Ryman Street.

The Poverello is seeking to move from its home downtown to a new location, where it can expand its capacity to shelter and feed Missoula's homeless on a night-to-night basis. The current shelter is stressed to its limits and is consistently overcrowded, especially during the winter.

It hopes to select a new location by the end of the month.

Reach reporter Jamie Kelly at 523-5254 or at jkelly@missoulian.com.

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