Mission aborted 

Though the black letters on the sign by the old Toole Avenue Foods market still spell out “God is able,” the Missoula 3:16 Rescue Mission now finds itself utterly unable, and without a leader, to pursue its goal of establishing a center for its “life regeneration” program for homeless men.

In May, the Independent reported that 3:16 was in talks with the city over its recently revoked building permit. Neighborhood worries about oversight had prompted the Office of Planning and Grants to take a second look at the permit, which it had issued following the state’s stamping of the project as a “halfway house.” When state officials looked at the books again, they apparently realized halfway house regulations had been appealed and, in the interim, the mission couldn’t qualify. The only other designations that fit 3:16 required licensed counselors and simply didn’t reflect 3:16’s Christian-based program, then-Director Cassie Sorenson said about the conundrum facing the group.

Two months later, the mission is seeking both a buyer for its building and a new director.

Interim director Pam Herbst says 3:16 gave up hope for its project and put the building up for sale when it couldn’t satisfy zoning requirements, though the $33,000 already sunk into construction made the decision painful, especially since the mission had waited to buy the building until it had secured a permit precisely to avoid such a situation.

Then, in mid-June, Sorenson left 3:16 in a development Herbst describes as amicable and resulting from Sorenson’s and the board’s incongruent directions. Board Chairman Jim Anattol wouldn’t elaborate.

Herbst says that while 3:16’s setbacks have been “difficult,” she views them as indicative of God’s will. And, she says, the mission may try again later to create a new home for its program, currently operating out of a small Northside apartment.

“Maybe out of the city limits since we’ve had so many problems,” Herbst says with a wry laugh. “We might have some better luck there.”

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