HELENA – A new report shows a slow decline in Montana’s homeless, although there’s still the population of one of our small towns that don’t have shelter on any given the night.
That’s the data shared Monday as the first-ever statewide conference on homelessness opened in Helena.
The numbers, which are based on the most recent “point in time” surveys, shows there’s been a drop of roughly 500 people in the homeless population the past five years.
“We have a lot of homeless, still, in Montana. It’s a shocking number of over 1,400,” said Missoula Housing Authority Director of HUD Programs Jim McGrath.
“But we have seen some decline in homelessness meaning that the work that a lot of my colleagues have around the state are doing to address that has made a difference. It’s a slow difference. It’s still a big problem. But we are making headway,”
That’s not to say homelessness isn’t a prominent problem, especially in Missoula, where there are still more than 300 people without regular shelter, the highest in the state.
That’s followed by Billings, Great Falls, Kalispell and Helena. But with the exception of Great Falls, all the trends are downward.
McGrath says there are concerns last year’s budget cuts could be having a ripple effect, and numbers could climb once more. But for now, the collaborative approach is working.
“Absolutely. That’s the only way that we can do that. But we also find that it turns out when — I might have something, and you might have something, and somebody else might have something — we put those three things together we have much bigger impact,” McGrath said. “Whereas, separately it’s not really doing much.”
The conference continues on Tuesday in Helena.