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Salvation Army to move to Russell after Stockman Bank buys building

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Despite the season’s cold weather, the building at the corner of Broadway and North Orange streets in downtown Missoula was a hot commodity this winter and sold after only a few months on the market.

Stockman Bank purchased the building that currently houses the Salvation Army, but bank CEO Bill Coffee said there are no immediate plans for the site.

The Salvation Army plans to build a new building in order to expand its services and upgrade its space.

“Our dream is to build a community center that is accessible to our community,” said Lt. Joshua Hamilton, who runs Missoula services with his wife Loreen.

Already, the organization – which has had a presence in Missoula for 119 years – owns land at the corner of South Second Street West and South Russell Street.

The building at Orange and Broadway doesn’t provide enough room to increase chapel space and to include additional classrooms and areas for youth programming, Hamilton said.

Plans for the new building include a high school regulation-size gymnasium and locker rooms that could be used by community groups and for after-school and youth programming, he said.

The Salvation Army is the most recent of several social service providers to announce plans to move out of the downtown area, and Hamilton said it makes sense to relocate as the city tightens laws against panhandling and loitering.

In addition to its popular shower, laundry, transportation and emergency shelter services, the organization hopes to reach out more to families in the community, Hamilton said.

“It didn’t really make sense for our mission to stay downtown if the people we were trying to reach out to weren’t all downtown,” he said.

The planned location offers easy access via sidewalks or buses for anyone, and is near a new, large apartment complex, he added.

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Last year, a planned move by the Union Gospel Mission sparked outrage and safety concerns from West Broadway residents, but Hamilton said he’s not anticipating the same issues.

The Salvation Army’s services don’t include a soup kitchen and so fewer people would use the facility. At the downtown location, between 20 and 30 people access services daily, he said.

Also, the building would provide inside areas to wait for services instead of loitering outside, he said, adding the current location rarely sees people hanging around for any period of time.

However, Hamilton said he wants to hear feedback from the community about his organization’s plans and will spend time reaching out to area residents.

Feedback so far has been largely positive, though, he said.

“Everybody seems really excited for the Salvation Army to kind of move forward and expand services and get a little bigger,” he said.

The new center is still in the planning stages, and ideally the Salvation Army will be able to move into its new space by October, Hamilton said.

People can contact Hamilton at joshua.hamilton@usw.salvationarmy.org.

Reporter Alice Miller can be reached at 523-5251 or at alice.miller@missoulian.com.

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