Insurance is expected to cover only about $30,000 of the estimated $150,000 it will cost to repair the damage done to the Poverello Center after a sewage leak on May 8.
Center officials had hoped to allow clients back into the building’s basement sleeping quarters by June 7, but on Friday Amy Allison Thompson, the executive director, said it will be at least two more weeks until the construction work is finished. The kitchen is back to serving three meals a day, but they’re unable to store many of their food staples because of the ongoing construction work.
Allison Thompson called it a “crisis” situation, saying that during the repairs to the men’s dorm, contractors had to disconnect the HVAC and sprinkler systems in the entire basement, leaving those spaces unavailable for the staff and clients. That posed not only sleeping challenges, but also took out the bulk of the men’s bathroom, lockers, showers and laundry facilities.
“Those facilities are important for people trying to get housing or find jobs,” she said.
Typically, 56 men sleep in one basement dorm and another 40 in the downstairs overflow room; the Salvation Army has been able to accommodate about 50 of those clients.
“We are using our space pretty creatively and sleeping more people in our dining room area. Essentially, all available floor space is being used now,” Allison Thompson told the Missoulian Friday. “According to our season, we’re typically sleeping up to 150 a night, but I think that number is lower because it’s so cramped. So I think people are out camping instead, and we’re sleeping about 140 a night.”
With two facilities open, Allison Thompson said it’s costing about $2,000 per week more than usual for the extra staff at the Salvation Army and for overtime.
“That’s a big challenge, but the alternative is not having a place to stay for people and that would be a bigger challenge to us and the community,” Allison Thompson said.
Jesse Jaeger, director of development and advocacy at the center, said a clog in the plumbing caused the sewage to back up, which flooded the main floor kitchen, then soaked into the basement ceiling tiles and damaged the sleeping quarters. A remediation company has replaced the sheetrock on the dorm walls, but it still needs to be replaced on the ceiling.
“We’re hoping — and it all depends on the contractors and inspections — that it will be less than two more weeks before we can get everyone back in there,” Jaeger said. “The folks we are working with are trying to do it as soon as possible.
“Our clients are really hanging tough. We are the last place of support for a lot of those people, and this is tough with the challenges we are having, but even more difficult for our clients.”
Allison Thompson agreed.
“For us to suddenly have a significant challenge in our building caused a lot of concern for those folks about where they would be staying,” she said. “Folks are in further crisis because the Pov is in crisis.”
The staff also is hanging tough, but Allison Thompson said the long hours and unsettled situation is taking a toll on them.
“It’s been an incredible challenge. Our staff has very hard jobs and care a lot about our clients, but with our two locations the staff is stretched incredibly thin,” she said. “Some volunteers are helping with the overnights and that’s good, but this needs to be fixed as soon as possible so we can get back to normal. I do worry about our staff.”
Eventually, the Poverello Center will seek donations to replenish its food staples like spices, rice, beans, flour and similar items; they can’t do that now because of the lack of storage space. All of those items were thrown out due to the potential of contamination.
But both Allison Thompson and Jaeger said they’re accepting financial donations online at www.thepoverellocenter.org/donate or by mail to P.O. Box 7644, Missoula, MT 59807. She added they’re also always in need of toiletries, towels, blankets, soap, shampoo and cleaning supplies; those can be dropped off at the shelter at 1110 W. Broadway St.
The Pov also is “exploring every possible option” including grants, and they’ve held a few targeted fundraising events.
“The main challenge is we don’t want the fundraising for this to affect our regular fundraising that we need throughout the year for general operations,” Allison Thompson said. “We have been humbled by the ongoing support we have received from the community, and are especially thankful to the Salvation Army for opening up their space to us.”