Poverello Damage

Matt Anderson of Dayspring Restoration works in the Poverello Center's basement men's dormitory recently after a plugged drain caused sewage to seep into the ceiling and room. Sewage flooded the center again Friday.

The Poverello Center is getting by with a little help from its friends.

On Tuesday, the Missoula County Commission voted unanimously to give $8,000 to the Poverello Center to help offset $150,000 in damages incurred after sewage flooded the kitchen and leaked into the ceiling of the downstairs sleeping quarters about a month ago. The homeless shelter’s insurance only covered $30,000, leaving Executive Director Amy Allison Thompson scrambling to find money to pay for the cleanup that will allow the Pov to fully reopen.

Aided by $10,000 donations each from the United Way of Missoula, the Missoula Federal Credit Union, and First Interstate Bank, along with scores of other significant contributions, including those from private parties, Allison Thompson said they’re hoping to be fully open by June 28.

“In the past couple of weeks, we have done a ton of fundraising, reaching out specifically to the donors involved in our capital campaign five years ago,” Allison Thompson told the commission. “We have had great success with our fundraising and raised $105,000. We only have $15,000 left to close this gap and I hope the (county’s) contingency fund will help us reach this goal.

“I have another ask this afternoon and later this week, so I hope we’ll be able to reach that target soon.”

Nancy Rittel, a grant administrator for Missoula County, said the $8,000 county grant will “zero out” the county’s Community Assistance Fund contingency fund for this year. She notes that in fiscal year 2019, nearly $806,000 was awarded to local service agencies, with about $15,000 set aside in the contingency fund for emergencies similar to the Poverello Center’s flooding.

Money for the fund is levied each year by the county to provide human services and establish a safety net to meet basic human needs like food, shelter and medical care.

Allison Thompson said the incident has been a learning experience. After the kitchen was temporarily closed and all of the food thrown away due to the possibility of contamination, the Pov has reopened and is back to serving about 500 to 600 meals each day.

But it is still dealing with the loss of 96 sleeping spaces; the Salvation Army can handle about 50 overnight guests, and the Poverello Center has gotten “creative” with its main floor space for sleeping purposes.

It's also taking a fresh look at insurance coverage after “some very good attorneys” found the $30,000 was the policy limit for the particular problem that occurred.

“The sewer flood issue was an extension in our policy,” Allison Thompson said.

In addition, the Pov is talking to plumbers about how to avoid a similar problem in the future.

“Our building probably is the hardest-working building (in Missoula) between the showers, the laundry and the soup kitchen serving 500 to 600 meals a day,” Allison Thompson said. “We’re having a plumber come in and take a scope through our plumbing to see if there was a grease buildup in the kitchen or other areas of the building.”

She added that Providence St. Patrick Hospital reached out, saying it puts plumbing “snakes” or augers through its plumbing lines a couple of times per week, which is an option the Poverello Center is exploring.

Commissioner Cola Rowley commended the Pov for looking at preventive measures.

“Let’s hope this never happens again,” she said.

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