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Some things never change. They just move with the Poverello Center to a new part of town. 

In December, the Poverello opened a shiny new $5 million homeless shelter and soup kitchen. It sleeps 100 people and provides 300 to 400 meals a day to Missoula's poorest residents.

But many of the center's new neighbors on and near West Broadway are frustrated with the issues that plague some of the shelter's population and filter out onto the doorsteps of their businesses.

Montana Glass owner Brian Dirnberger said he's even considered uprooting his business and moving to a new location to escape his new neighbors. 

"The whole location of it wasn't proper for what their needs are," Dirnberger explained. "I just think there are other areas in the city that could have (provided) better access to different programs for the people who are staying there. I know there is at least an ambulance there once a week."

"It's a lot of city resources that are involved," he added.

Most of the Poverello Center's neighbors are quick to point out that their complaint isn't with the people who actually stay at the shelter.

The problems are caused by a small percentage of people who loiter around the center, waiting for their free meals, Dirnberger's project manager, Shawn Knopp, explained. 

"When I would get to work I would see them coming over for breakfast," Knopp said. "I would see them walking over for lunch, and when I would leave I would see them going for dinner." 

Neither man can see one benefit of having the new, rather noisy neighbor. 

In the few months since the shelter opened, Dirnberger has called Missoula police about people loitering, public drug use, public intoxication and domestic disturbances, all of which have affected his business.

In total, he estimates that he's contacted police about four times. He's called the Poverello's hotline and spoken with the center's outreach coordinator, Travis Mateer, more than that, he said.

In one instance, a couple's argument started at 9 a.m. on Hawthorne Street and after a short break, continued until later morning, Dirnberger said. During the second bout, the fight took a violent turn, with the woman attacking the man and ripping off his rear-view mirror. People from inside the Poverello had to separate the two until the cops arrived. 

Montana Glass had front-row seats to the melee, and that wasn't exactly an inviting scene for customers. Knopp said he knows of at least one customer who went to a competitor to avoid his close proximity to the Pov. 

Dirnberger said it's too early to tell what kind of financial impact the shelter has had on his business. Aside from relocating, he doesn't know if there is another solution to the problem.

"Now is the critical time where we have to set a precedent, where we say we don't appreciate loitering and hanging around on the streets," Dirnberger said. "They've built this wonderful fenced-in area for them to stand around, smoke and talk after their meals. I foresee people going out beyond the fence more this summer than they are now."

"They have a couple gardens they are starting there and it may become a more inviting place than the uninviting place it is now," he added.

***

That's the idea, Eran Fowler Pehan, the center's executive director, said Friday. Come spring, Poverello Center residents will be able to garden in a multitude of raised flower beds.

Inside the courtyard, folks will be able to sit at picnic tables and enjoy the shade of a few fledgling trees.

"I think anywhere there are people accessing these services, the issues around shared use are going to arise," she said. "Our focus is being really responsive and making sure the lines of communication stay open and being proactive in addressing their concerns." 

She said it's important for businesses to call the police to report any issue they have in "real time." Otherwise, the administration at the center may not even know about what's going on beyond its walls. 

Pehan said the Poverello is taking part in community discussions with Lowell School's Parent Teacher Association and is part of another neighborhood meeting that takes place once a month on a Friday.

While she is privy to the center's inner-workings, she said businesses and other neighbors give her a different perspective on what goes on outside the gates. 

During these neighborhood meetings, they don't just discuss how to mitigate concerns, they also have a larger conversation about how to be good neighbors, she said. They plan barbecues and discuss ways to partner together on different projects. 

"We have just been overwhelmed by the support of the neighborhood," she said. "There definitely are concerns and we will continue to address those, but in general the community has been so generous with their time and we are continuing to be blown away by that." 

Pehan said they have seen an uptick in people who are using the Poverello, but they are local people who the shelter's staff members know. The new clients are people who were camping before, or women living in unsafe situations who are taking advantage of the fresh, new facility, she said.

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As far as the drug and alcohol abuse going on outside the center, Pehan said her staff can tell if one of their clients has been using. If there's any doubt, they use an on-site breathalyzer, she said.

Alcohol use is not permitted at the Poverello Center, and clients are turned away if they arrive drunk.

***

Not every neighborhood business has expressed discontent with their new and colorful neighbors.

James Hardin is the manager of CitiLodge, the motel that sits across West Broadway from the Poverello.

He said the center is "a blessing and a curse." A blessing because business has increased as he takes in some of the Pov's overflow, but a curse because it's not always the type of business or attention he wants. 

Hardin, like Pehan, is an optimist. Though he spends about 25 percent of his time chasing away bad customers, he retells some harrowing stories with a throaty laugh. 

He's found his rooms in various states of disarray: Walls have been moved, windows crashed through, doors kicked in, and various bloody messes from drunken brawls have been left on his floors. 

He keeps a detailed log of every time he has to call the police for assistance.

On Feb. 5, he called police four different times – mostly for the same person who he refers to as "the drunk," who was apparently turned away from the Poverello Center, but found an open door to a motel room, where he passed out.

He had to be escorted off the property by police and then fell asleep in a bus stop.

A few hours later, Hardin called police again, after "the drunk" returned and knocked on another door. The room's occupant answered to find the man standing there, shirtless and pants around his ankles. 

People like "the drunk" are in what Hardin calls "the Poverello Parade."

"I've had one of the worst times possible because of Beaver Street," he said, referring to the narrow road behind the motel.

"It's pretty much the highway from the Poverello to the (West Broadway) Island. So you get a bunch – especially late at night – all drunk and happy as can be coming up this alley. So that's one of those curses. You can watch them go to the liquor store." 

Or Safeway to buy beer, he said.

Hardin said the parade starts every day around 10:30 a.m., when the group makes its way from the island to a store to get alcohol. They go back behind the motel and drink, squatting in either one of the now-destroyed trailers owned by the motel or on the West Broadway Island, he said.  

After they sleep it off, they head on over to the Poverello for their next meal, he said. When they are drunk, they cause problems for the motel, because they begin to knock on doors looking for their friends, Hardin said.

Then there are the blessings, like artist Kevin Yank, who was apparently too fearful to stay at the shelter, Hardin said. 

"He came to me in a wheelchair, dirty as can be," Hardin said. "He needed help and his mom was the one who put up the money for him to stay here and the stay has been really good for him."

There are other people too, who don't want to stay at the Poverello or were turned away for one reason or another. They are funded by churches or regular people trying to help out.

In one instance, a responding police officer paid for a woman to stay in a room. She needed some help, Hardin said, his eyes brimming with tears. 

When they stay at CitiLodge, they can go across the street and get a free meal. 

"The good people deserve to have a place like that," he said. "It's the bad ones and it's the drug trade that's the real difficulty. I see it all the time. I've even been threatened to be killed."

He's been threatened by several meth-users, who he's chased out of the building. And since then, he's tried to handle the shelter's overflow by weeding out the bad people and keeping those like Yank, who just seem to be down on their luck.

"There are some great people that have come here from the Pov," he said. "What I have done is taken the time I've needed to get the good people in here."  

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