KALISPELL — The Flathead Warming Center is a low barrier access homeless shelter in Kalispell providing a warm safe place to sleep during the coldest months of the year.
Back in October, the warming center opened their new 40-bed building, more than doubling the capacity of temporary shelters used in the past.
Despite the increase in beds, the warming center is having to turn people away each night as the rate of homelessness continues to rise in Flathead County.
“We have been full almost every night and every night we are having to turn away anywhere from 2 to 15 individuals,” said Flathead Warming Center Executive Director Tonya Horn.
Every night at 6 p.m. a line trickles out the door.
“There’s often more than 40 people standing outside," added Horn.
Horn thought the new 40-bed building would meet the increase in demand, now they’re already looking at expansion.
“We knew eventually we might expand; we didn’t think we would need to do that so soon, but we’re looking at what the opportunities are for expansion so that all of our neighbors can have a warm safe place,” said Horn.
“I live here now; I am a guest and a volunteer, and I work at this place,” said Flathead Warming guest Ken Triplett.
4 months ago, 63-year-old Ken Triplett was forced out of his living situation in Somers after his landlord increased his rent.
“What I make a month through social security was not even half of what they want for rent, I couldn’t do it,” said Triplett.
With no place to go, Triplett found refuge at the warming center, he quickly found out he was not alone.
“There’s a lot of people out there that need help,” added Triplett.
Horn said the increase in homelessness in the Flathead is directly correlated with the lack of affordable housing.
A problem only getting worse.
“There’s not housing for a lot of these folks, there just really isn’t, and that is very hard as we’re working with people to have the tools and the resources that they need to move beyond homelessness, but what is there for them to achieve when there’s no housing for these individuals, it’s tragic for our whole community,” said Horn.
Triplett shivers at the thought of where he might be without the warming center
“I don’t know, I honestly don’t know, have a sleeping bag, have a tent, but the last two months wouldn’t of been good out there doing that,” said Triplett.
Horn said they are in the beginning phase of planning for expansion, but admits securing funding will be a major priority in the coming months.
Those who would like to donate to the warming center or volunteer can find more information online.