The much-anticipated Trinity housing development on Mullan Road could open as soon as next month, providing affordable housing and supportive wraparound services to some of Missoula’s most vulnerable residents.
It’s a step forward that members of the local Community Care Team — a joint effort to provide medical care to the unhoused, supported by the city, county and Partnership Health Center — is eagerly awaiting.
“The impact on people’s lives, I cannot overstate what this means to people,” team member Jen Foyd told the Missoula City Council on Wednesday.
Foyd and her colleagues are confident Trinity will help remedy some of the issues her team has been responding to over the past two years. Throughout that period, the Community Care Team has served 174 individual patients and has had 822 encounters with at-risk Missoulians. The team has also supplied five people with long-acting antipsychotic medication, along with distributing over 100 wound care kits and 500 shower-sized body wipes.
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One woman served by the team went from being unhoused for 10 years to becoming a pillar of her residential community once the team helped her secure a stable place to live. Another person the team responded to managed to avoid incarceration and institutionalization thanks to medication access provided by Foyd and her partners.
The team has been able to achieve these successes primarily through building rapport with patients out in the community. Three team members who spoke to council Wednesday explained they do not go into their interactions with a focus on providing housing. Rather, they meet patients where they are and help them toward their own individual goals, which can include securing medical care, improving hygiene and maintaining relationships.
“The folks that we connect with,” Foyd said, “we really act as a tether for those folks to resources and supports that they wouldn’t otherwise have access to. Most of us have natural supports that are built into our lives that act as that tether. The patients that we work with tend not to.”
The Missoulians who will get access to Trinity’s 30 supportive housing units are expected to continue connecting to those important resources. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, supportive housing reduces substance misuse by 72%. Arrests go down 50-90%, emergency department usage declines by 50-89% and housing retention rates reach more than 85%.
“We know there’s not enough (housing) for everybody in Missoula that needs it and we would love to have more,” Foyd acknowledged. “But we feel like it’s going to make a really big dent on some of these issues that we’re taking about.”
Still, the Community Care Team faces challenges in its work. Since the Authorized Camping Site closed in fall 2022 and the Johnson Street Emergency Winter Shelter ended its season in April, the houseless population has become more dispersed throughout the Missoula area. The care team has therefore struggled locating patients in recent weeks.
Funding remains another difficulty. The team was previously propped up by American Rescue Plan Act funds, a one-time financial source that was made available due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The team is searching for grants and other opportunities to take the place of that federal funding.
“We’re looking at the options right now,” said team member Rebecca Goe.