Dozens of people came through the Multi-Agency Flood Relief Center set up at the Salvation Army on Wednesday evening in search of resources after this spring’s historic flooding.
The event featured a dozen or so government agencies, nonprofits and businesses offering support and relief services to Missoula County residents and renters.
The No. 1 issue on peoples’ minds: sandbag removal and cleanup, according to Nick Holloway, projects coordinator for the Missoula County Office of Emergency Management.
Missoula County has set up a site at Hawthorne Elementary where sandbags can be taken and disposed of. The site will be up and running until next Sunday, June 24.
There are also more organizations offering cleanup support such as Team Rubicon and Missoula Flood Support, a team of volunteers that organized on Facebook in response to the flooding.
Team Rubicon is a national organization of volunteers that work in disaster relief. Originally coordinating sandbags in early April, the organization now focuses its efforts on muck-outs. Free to residents, Team Rubicon will tear out sheetrock, insulation and any other building materials affected by water damage, according to Mike Jarnevick, a self-described grunt. He said the organization will also remove fallen debris and build temporary roofs, at no cost.
“We want to help. People’s gratitude is enough,” Jarnevick said.
Team Rubicon and Missoula Flood Support are constantly in need of volunteers. Team Rubicon can be contacted through their website, teamrubiconusa.org.
Missoula Flood Support can be found on Facebook. The group’s founder, Nathan Stephens, said people are welcome to join the group and ask for help. The group has collected donations and can connect people with the appropriate organization or government agency that can more appropriately address their issue.
The Salvation Army provided clean-up kits, complete with a mop, broom, squeegee and other cleaning supplies, which were in high demand on Wednesday night, according to Josh Boyd, with AmeriCorps. The kits along with gift cards to Orange Street Food Farm and the Salvation Army’s traditional services, will continue to be available as supplies last at their location on Russell Street.
Housing is also a significant issue for those affected by the flooding. Out of 84 homes inspected by Missoula County Public Works, seven were tagged red, meaning "do not enter," said building official Stephen Hutchings. Two-thirds of the remaining 77 homes were tagged yellow, meaning the structure is safe to enter, but requires an interior home inspection.
Many homeowners and renters came through the center to learn more. Those in need of a home inspection or who have questions about the safety of their home should call Missoula County Public Works, said Hutchings. The inspections are free.
Environmental Health Manager Jeanna Miller said the three biggest health issues as a result of the flooding are septic system damage, unsafe drinking water and solid waste disposal. Miller said the health department works individually with people, as each situation is unique. The health department offers free home water sampling kits. A water test is $15.
Many organizations offered temporary or permanent housing assistance. The Salvation Army offers rental assistance for those who need a new place to live. Missoula Aging Services serves as a central referral service, primarily helping the aging and disabled, said Rebecca Kotula, a call center specialist. Kotala said Missoula Aging Services can be reached online, through its message line or at its location on Stephens Avenue from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Miller said another relief event may be scheduled, depending on need.