Poverello Center Executive Director Ellie Hill officially put the brakes on a new Northside chemical dependency drop-in center Monday when she cancelled a lease signing and let a June 30 state funding deadline pass. Hill’s decision followed a heated June 25 public feedback session at the Stensrud Building, in which angry residents lambasted the project, as well as Hill, for over two hours.
“We want to wait and move forward so that folks can all be invested in this, not just the Pov,” said Hill on Monday.
The new facility would offer services to homeless persons who deal with chemical dependency issues and who cannot visit the Pov because of its no-tolerance policy on alcohol and substances. The state has extended its funding deadline at Hill’s request, allowing for more outreach and public feedback.
“Nobody’s denying the need,” Hill says. “It’s about where it will go. The downtown businesses don’t want us in the urban core, and the Northside residents don’t want us there.”
That message rang loud and clear at last week’s meeting, when numerous community members criticized the project’s lack of public input and questioned its place in the neighborhood.
“The only reason people say, ‘Not in our neighborhood,’ is safety,” said Lisa Thompson, a teacher at Lowell Elementary School during the meeting. “How are we—our children—going to be safe?”
While Hill says the center isn’t set on the 506 Toole Avenue location (they’ve looked at five available buildings in the last two months), her only parameter for a new locale is that it remains near downtown, where much of the center’s clients spend their days. She also wants it to open by the fall.
To help bring both sides together to solve the impasse, the city announced Tuesday a new Neighborhood/Poverello working group, which will allow community members to further discuss the issue. Those interested in joining the group should contact Missoula City Neighborhood liaison LaNette Diaz at firstname.lastname@example.org.