The Missoula Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve contracts with the Salvation Army, providing up to $62,000 for a winter shelter rental assistance program and another $19,000 for an emergency transportation program.
The money comes from the county’s Community Assistance Fund.
The winter shelter program provides rental assistance to struggling individuals and families in danger of being evicted from their homes during the cold winter months.
The emergency transportation program helps those in need, particularly those fleeing domestic violence, to purchase bus tickets to reach destinations where they have family, jobs, friends or other assistance and support.
“Contrary to rumors I’ve heard, we are not paying for people to go to Yellowstone National Park or on vacations,” said Commissioner Dave Strohmaier. “This is to help people who are victims of domestic violence, and others in need who go through a pre-approval process, to get to a safe and supportive place where they can get the help they need.”
A part of the Universal Christian Church, the Salvation Army is a nonprofit dedicated to “serving the lost, the vulnerable, the needy, the poor, the hurting, the helpless, and the hopeless,” according to their website.
“When an individual or family faces a hardship, we’re able to offer financial assistance for helping with bills, rent or other basic needs,” said Julie Clark, a program coordinator with the Missoula Corps of the Salvation Army. “The goal is to provide short-term support while helping individuals work toward long-term self-sufficiency.”
Part of their focus is on preventing homelessness, she said. “Housing challenges are not predictable or limited to a certain type of person, and it could happen to anyone. Some causes may be unemployment or a medical emergency.”
The Community Assistance Fund is used by the county to “provide human services and establish a safety net or continuum of services to meet basic human needs.”
Each year, a citizens advisory committee reviews applications and makes recommendations to the commissioners on funding allocations. This year, the committee recommended 17 programs be funded, including the rental assistance and transportation programs.
The programs were included in the 2020 budget approved last month.