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Ground Breaking For Housing For Homeless

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Community members celebrate the ground breaking of a permanent housing complex for homeless individuals, people with mental health or substance abuse disorders, and people with HIV or AIDS. The eight apartments are named after John Ernest Lynn who devoted his career to ending homelessness in Missoula.

City officials said much of Missoula's homeless population suffers from mental health or substance abuse problems. They said the costs of providing services to them is far more expensive than providing them with housing.

Shovels hit the ground on Thursday, marking one more step in the community's efforts to find a solution to homelessness in Missoula.

"With out safe, decent and affordable housing you don't have anything. It's a first and critical step, and we know housing works," said Patty Kent with the Western Montana Mental Health Center.

Eight new units will sit on Dakota Street, next to the Art Barn.

The goal-- providing a home to the people who need them short term-- and saving Missoula money in the long term.

"Whether we provide housing or not, people will be homeless for any number of reasons, and that homelessness will cost us as a community through medical care, law enforcement, you name it," Kent said.

National numbers show a homeless person on the street costs a community about $15,000 to $20,000 per year.

"Why not just provide housing and allow those folks to stabilize and regain their independence, and become a more active part of our community," Kent said.

The housing has a special meaning to the family of John Ernest Lynn, whom the apartment is named after and dedicated to.

"He devoted his career to serving the mentally ill and staff that worked with him, and it was his passion and love," Lynn said.

Lynn worked for the center for almost 35 years before he died unexpectedly last November from a pulmonary embolism.

"Shortly after my father passed we were contacted by the Western Montana Mental Health Center, and they told us they would name the building after my father if that was something we were interested in, and we considered that a great honor," said Lynn's son Madison Lynn.

The almost $1 million complex not only fits into the community's 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness, which is aimed at helping people who have addictions or mental health issues, but it also continues Lynn's efforts to help his clients.

"I think it is a perfect example of what he meant to this community and what this community meant to him," Madison said.

The mental health center manages supportive homes across Western Montana, including about 140 in Missoula.

The center hopes tenants will be moved into the newest apartments by Thanksgiving.

The project is funded by the county, the mental health center, and federal funds through through several of the city's grant programs. Tenants will pay 30% of their income for rent.