On Monday, Ellie Hill, the high-profile director of Missoula's Poverello Center, stepped down after five and a half years helming the state's largest homeless shelter. Hill, a representative for House District 94, will move on to co-chair the Montana Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee. Where the Pov will move, though, is unclear.
Hill's departure comes as the Pov attempts to drum up public support for its long-overdue relocation. And it has to do so quickly: Its $500,000 grant through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs could fall through if it doesn't secure a new site by Oct. 1. The shelter had planned to move to the former Trails End Bar, at 1112 West Broadway, but Mayor John Engen put that plan on ice last month after Westside neighbors protested.
Now the nonprofit has only two and a half months to identify a site, address neighbors' concerns, and finalize a deal. Engen and the Pov will soon kick off a series of public meetings on the matter, which, according to city spokeswoman Ginny Merriam, probably won't last longer than six weeks in order to accommodate the Pov's deadline.
"The process has to be adequate," says Eran Fowler-Pehan, the Pov's acting executive director. "I don't think it has to be lengthy to be adequate."
The West Broadway site remains an option. Board president Kate Gadbow says the Pov asked for an extension of the buy-sell agreement. "We're hoping the property will still be available after we've worked through all of this," she says, "or that something else will surface...that's fairly close to the city, but not necessarily right in the center of town."
And if that doesn't happen by Oct. 1?
"I think it would be a big detriment to the community to lose that significant of a portion of money that could assist with the relocation of the shelter, which absolutely needs to occur," Fowler-Pehan says.
As for Hill's departure, Gadbow says, "It became clearer and clearer to all of us that it was going to be hard for her to be here and focus in the way that an executive director needs to in order to move us through this process, and for her to still be keeping some of these political commitments she's made. I actually think it's going to be great for the Pov to have her advocating for the poor in a larger sphere."