Missoula’s Poverello Center resumed serving limited meals to clients Wednesday, but continues to struggle as it mops up after a blocked sewer line flooded the basement men’s main dorm and damaged the kitchen.
Amy Allison Thompson, the homeless shelter’s executive director, said the Pov still needs food and financial contributions as they try to pick up after last week’s disaster.
Instead of the typical meal that includes soup, two entrees, vegetables and a starch, they’re limited to providing basic soup and sandwiches for lunch and dinner in the partially opened kitchen. They also can provide Continental-type breakfasts that include baked goods, fruit and yogurt.
Hot meals beyond soup will have to wait until the kitchen is completely repaired, which could take several weeks.
“What we’re doing is very limited, with not a ton of cooking. Just real, basic food,” Allison Thompson said Wednesday afternoon. “We’re serving about the same amount as usual,” which is about 500 meals per day.
Last Wednesday morning, a clogged sewer service line caused sewage to back up into the kitchen and adjoining storage areas. Sewage also flooded into the main men’s dorm, which is directly below the kitchen. The plumbing failure caused significant damage to sections of the kitchen and the entire men’s dorm that will take many weeks to fully repair.
Although the dorm is closed, about 140 people stayed in recent nights at the shelter, whose residency is capped at 150 people.
“We are basically using every bit of floor space that we can because the men’s dorm is closed,” Allison Thompson said. “I think people have been doing a pretty good job at being flexible; they understand we are in a crisis.
“But it is causing some stress on our guests, who are wondering where they might stay and get their next meal. But we’re trying to supply some stability.”
Allison Thompson said they’re not sure when the dorm will reopen, but added that it could take weeks.
“We’re working closely with Dayspring Restoration to come up with a plan,” she said. “They’ve been really good at expediting the work and getting it done in the shortest time possible.”
The kitchen was closed after the incident because of the potential contamination, and all of the food, including staples like rice and flours, was thrown out. The staff estimated they tossed about 2,800 pounds of food.
When the Poverello staff turned to the community for help, Missoula individuals and groups donated enough food to allow volunteers to make almost 2,500 sack lunches out of the basement of the First United Methodist Church. That allowed the clients to get the meals they relied on to meet basic food needs.
But Allison Thompson said more help is needed. They are accepting food donations at the center, and could use more bread, sliced sandwich meats and cheese, granola bars, single-serve packaged chips, bottled water, apples, plastic sandwich bags, plastic wrap, spices like salt and pepper, and soup base.
Financial donations to purchase staple items in bulk also are helpful. Donations can be made at thepoverellocenter.org/donate or by mailing a check to P.O. Box 7644, Missoula, MT 59802.
Allison Thompson said she is “truly humbled” by the outpouring of support they’ve had during this difficult week.
“There have been hundreds of little acts of kindness that we have seen,” she noted in a press release. “These include the anonymous person who ordered our staff pizza on Friday afternoon, the many people who have volunteered their time to help us out and all of you who made financial and food donations.
“The staff, board and clients appreciate the care we have received from our Missoula community.”