As winter weather descends across western Montana and homeless shelters begin filling up, Missoula city officials and social workers announced a new 10-year plan to end homelessness in Missoula.

Officials said that, up until this point, the city's been focused on maintaining the homeless population.

They say the new plan hopes to reduce homelessness, and eventually end it.

Missoula resident Robert Walker said he’s been a member of the homeless community, off and on, for five years. This winter he has a place to live, but he said he knows people every year who succumb to the cold.

“Every year on average since I've been here, there's been at least one homeless person that has froze to death,” said Walker.

"We have people who are clinging to their housing. We have people who are living on the street, living in cars,” said United Way of Missoula Director Susan Hay Patrick, who’s co-chairing a working group to develop the plan. “What we need to do is find appropriate housing for everyone regardless of their circumstances."

Patrick said there are several hundred individuals in Missoula who don’t have a place to stay every night. She said just a fraction of those people are visible in the community, often downtown, but most of them go unseen.

"The invisible homeless are the families who don't have enough money to pay first and last month's rent and a security deposit. The kids who are aging out of foster care and don't have a place to live. The women and children fleeing their abusers and living in hotels and motels."

That’s a group Patrick said would benefit directly from the new plan.

A working group called “Reaching Home” has been formed to take comments and suggestions to further develop the 10-year plan.

They’ll present it at an open house on November 14 at the Holiday Inn downtown from 6 to 9 p.m.

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