Missoula County

Basic Needs


Breast & Cervical Cancer

Rental Housing

Violent Crime


Basic Needs

Physical Activity



Mental Health

Childhood Immunizations

Heart Disease

Health Care Coverage

Feeling Well

Traffic Crashes

Communicable Diseases

Why This Measure?

A healthy community assures that each resident has an appropriate opportunity to meet his or her basic needs — food, shelter, health care. There will always be some residents who cannot meet those basic needs without at least some assistance. Missoula has a complex system of agencies and funding streams to accomplish this. The basic needs measure is an attempt to reflect two things: how many people are utilizing basic needs services, and the adequacy of our safety net.

Related Measures Children, Youth, Families, Health

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Lead IndicatorsNote: it's difficult to find one indicator that effectively represents how sufficient the community's safety net is. 

Poverello Center (Source: Kit Hearst, 4/28/00)

Meals Served                                  Lodging Provided

  Avg Meals

Per Day

No. of


No. of


No. of


No. of


1997 198 67,593 1,589 15,101 455
1998 213 71,693 1,679 22,422 458
1999 232 76,267 2,430 16,441 667

* Of varying sizes


Meals Served                             Lodging Provided

  Avg Meals

Per Day

No. of


No. of


No. of


1997 55 21,435 185 25
1998 58 21,066 147 27
1999 59 21,357 132 21

* Of varying sizes.

** Mainly families, but includes a few singles.


(Emergency Boxes of Food)

  Families Singles
1997 687 560
1998 747 668
1999 704 731


At Poverello, resources are "never" adequate to meet demand, nor do they feel that the County offers sufficient services for the increasing population of homeless and/or hungry persons. At present, single adults without children have been hardest hit by welfare reform over the decade: not only were they the first to be removed from welfare rolls, but they are limited to three months of Food Stamps across three years. Single women often partner with employed males: some women reportedly choose to become pregnant to qualify for third trimester benefits. Single men more frequently remain on handouts indeterminably.

Missoula Food Bank (Source: Cynthia Roney, Bonnie Buckingham, 4/27/00)




1997 1998 1999 TREND
Families 5,697 5,533 5,501 Decreasing
Couples 917 995 1,114 Increasing
Singles 2,941 2,618 3,104 Increasing **
Travelers 191 156 87 Decreasing
ADULTS 14,664 14,084 14,811 Increasing **
CHILDREN 13,144 12,246 12,090 Decreasing
TOTAL INDIVIDUALS 27,808 26,330 26,901 Decreasing
DIFFERENT HOUSEHOLDS 3,849 3,630 3,750 Decreasing

* Approximately three-day emergency food box.

** NOTE: However, this includes fewer different individuals.

Currently, the Missoula Food Bank serves approximately 37 households per day, on average a total of 2,200 to 2,300 pounds of food (approximately 62 pounds per household). From 1997 to 1999, an annual average of 48 percent of all households visited the Food Bank only one time. In 1999, 44 percent of households served by the Food Bank had someone working (on average, 30 hours per week); in 1997 that figure was 37 percent (on average, 28 hours per week). For these households, average monthly income rose to $850 ($10,200 per year) in 1999, up from $713 in 1997 ($8,600 per year). Percentage of monthly income devoted to rent decreased to 42 percent in 1999, down from 50 percent in 1997 and 51 percent in 1998. In 1999 fewer Food Bank clients received Food Stamps (28 percent v. 32 percent in 1997), and the average monthly amount decreased to $154 from $163 in 1997. Of special note, in 1999 72 percent of all clients had been residents of Missoula County for more than one year; in 1997 that figure was 65 percent.

Food Bank staff appreciate the support shown by the Missoula community, but are concerned about not reaching everyone in need; e.g., residents of outlying areas in the County, as well as the elderly.

 Salvation Army (Tim Hill, 549-0710, 4/27/00)

In February of 2000, 107 households received a food box appropriate for the number of individuals in that home, a total of 199 individuals served. In 1999, 64% of clients had 2 or more people in the household.  Groups at highest risk for hunger are: 1) singles without children (low social and occupational skills, additional health issues, particularly those over 50 years of age); women forced into living situations they would not choose if they had other options; 3) transient families without cooking facilities.   While they presently have enough food to meet demand, Salvation Army believes they will run out in the summer, their highest use period, due to 25% cutback from United Way.  Longtime Salvation Army staff observe that countywide the need has gone "way up" in FY ‘99-00 from previous years.

WIC (Source: Mary Pittaway, 5/5/00)

For the past three years, WIC has served an average of 2,500 clients per year, reaching approximately 60 percent of eligible households. Six outlying clinics, most of which were established within the past five years, have facilitated access to WIC services, often incorporating Neighborhood Nursing and Public Assistance eligibility services as well. In the wake of welfare reform WIC has experienced a high turnover in clientele, as it is often difficult for working mothers to attend the one hour appointment on alternating months to qualify for program benefits.

Pittaway reports that in FY 99-00 Missoula County returned over $11 million in U.S.D.A. food and nutrition program funds for targeted groups because of underutilization of existing services including (in order of descending magnitude): food stamps (less than 50 percent of eligible clients), school breakfast programs, school lunch programs, snack programs for after school activities, disqualification of unlicensed daycare programs from accessing food funding, underutilization of WIC services, and the lack of matching funds to enable WIC clients to access Missoula’s Farmers Market.

 Food Stamps (Carrie Zumwalt, Public Assistance Supervisor, 5/5/00)


State Fiscal Year Households




Pub Assist






Avg Value of Food Stamps Per Recipient
1997 3,129 7,167 1,385 1,744 $74.22
1998 2,760 6,154 732 2,028 $74.69
1999 2,649 5,737 669 1,980 $75.17

Source: MT DPHHS Statistical Reports, State Fiscal Years 1997-1999

Eligibility for food stamps is now a complex process, determined by both financial and non-financial criteria established by the federal government. From 1993 through 1996, an average of about 7100 people received food stamps, or about 3100 household-that number has dropped in the last two years.   One-third of Missoulians who get food stamps are currently working. (Missoula County Human Services)

 Trend Probably Worse Data Rating Availablevv Reliablevv Relevantvvv

How are we doing?

Overall, probably worse. The safety net for Missoula is in a period of transition, largely because of major federal and state restructuring and reduction of resources and corresponding services. We need more time and analysis to see how these changes  affect many Missoula residents in the short and long term. We know that there has been a steady increase in poverty for at least two decades. (This is true for both the nation as a whole and Missoula in particular).   See Poverty Measure.  Missoula appears to draw poorer people from smaller Montana counties at least partly because: 1) we are a regional economic center with a growing availability of low wage, entry level jobs; 2) smaller counties don’t have as many resources and assistance programs; 3) people come to Missoula for job-related training at adult education, vo-tech, and the University; 4) people with chronic health conditions come to Missoula for health care and end up staying.

Homeless in Missoula

The most recent count of homeless was done April 27, 1999.   Survey results found: 403 homeless people, which included 73 families with 98 children.  About 1/4 of these homeless were obtaining shelter by doubling up with friends, staying in their cars, or living on the streets.  Special need populations represented in these homeless included:                                                                                                       Severely mentally ill  80                                                                       Drug addicted  91                                                                            People with disability   112                                                           People with HIV/AIDS   2                                                                People fleeing from domestic violence   64                            Veterans  48                                                                                                          This count was almost entirely limited to people who have contact with services from one or more of the homeless service providers.  There are others who did not seek services on and around April 27, who were not included in this count.  The total number of homeless in the Missoula urban area at any given time may be as high as 600-800 people. (Missoula Housing Authority) Significant contributing factors to homelessness include high rent, low vacancy rates, low wages, mental illness and chemical dependency, welfare reform, and social budget cuts. (Missoula County) Check out a description of Missoula's homeless assistance strategy based on a continuum of care approach At-Risk Housing Coalition (ARHC).

Basic Human Services:

For a full overview of recent history (1991-1999) of federal and state policy and program changes and corresponding Missoula human services related impacts and responses excerpted from the Missoula Consolidated Plan (March 1999), Missoula Human Services in the 1990's.  This report looks at: 1) 1993 elimination of General Assistance Program; 2) 1996 Welfare Reform; 3) 1992-97 reduction in state & federal chemical dependency services; 4) 1994-97 implementation of managed care-mental health system; 5) 1991-94 rapid escalation of emergency psychiatric hospitalization costs.


In 1996, federal welfare legislation (the Personal Responsibility and Work Reconciliation Act) ended the 60-year-old program Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) and restructured the ties between welfare, work, and self-sufficiency. Montana responded by creating Families Achieving Independence in Montana (FAIM), which has local flexibility. Missoula is emphasizing real work experience in the community for its clients rather than community service.

There is debate over whether FAIM will increase or decrease the poverty rate. The welfare-to-work requirements and the lifetime limits on welfare benefits will increase the size of the low-wage labor force. Federal legislation allows that 20% of those on welfare are not employable; in all likelihood, that percentage is even higher. Even for the majority who are employable, economic self-sufficiency ( see Self Sufficiency Measure )cannot be attained by welfare recipients without an increase in employment at livable wages. In 1999 we are in year two of the 5 year limit, and nearly 500 families are receiving cash assistance. (Missoula County Human Services)

Housing Rental Assistance

How big is the supply of housing in Missoula that is geared to assist low and moderated income households?  Missoula has special below-market housing to assist about 1725 households that are below 50% median income.  About 9000 households meet this income requirement for housing.  We have the capacity to assist about 20% of the need.  The remaining renters below 50% of median income are likely paying in excess of 30% of their income for housing, and 80% of the remaining renters are likely paying more than 50 % of their income for housing.

In addition, Missoula has about 471 units geared to households between 50% and 60% of median income. A more detailed breakdown of the types of assistance available:                                                                                              
Unit-based assistance (rental assistance tied to a specific unit in a specific building)

For the general population:                                 #of units

Subsidized apartments                                            523                 

Tax credit apts. (income/rent restricted)                 350

For seniors

Subsidized                                                                  316

Tax credit                                                                     121

For special populations

People with mental illness                                            28

People with physical disability                                     24

Tenant-Based assistance (rental assistance for qualified households that can be used for any rental unit that fits cost and condition restrictions)

Housing Authority Section 8 vouchers                       470

Housing Authority Shelter Plus Care                            60

Human Resource Vouchers/Certificates                   302

Total Housing Assistance                                          2194



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