Samaritan House expansion to include family and veteran housing, resource center

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As wintry weather sets in for the Flathead Valley amid an ongoing homelessness crisis, Kalispell’s Samaritan House has announced plans for substantial expansion, paving the way for increased housing and social services for families and homeless veterans. The “Building Stability” project will include a complete renovation of the former Army Reserve Armory in Kalispell, where Samaritan House currently houses its administrative offices. With plans underway to begin construction in 2024, the nonprofit organization continues to raise funds for the project while providing a wide range of services at its current location.

The two-part “Building Stability” project will include the construction of 18 affordable family apartments, as well as a housing and social services center for veterans. Samaritan House associate director Morgan Winchester said while homelessness affects diverse populations in the Flathead Valley, families and veterans have been particularly affected, prompting the organization to create programs for two groups.

“We see so many families coming to the shelter now. It’s so difficult even for middle-class families to afford housing in the Valley,” Winchester said. “It’s heartbreaking.”

Flathead County has one of Montana’s largest homeless populations, a group that has only grown over the past three years as pandemic-induced economic crises have pushed individuals and families out of their homes and a local population boom has caused a lot of housing to be lost. market. Data from Collaborative Housing Solutions of Northwest Montana, a coalition of local service providers, released a report summarizing Montana’s 2022 needs and gaps analysis, which found 319 homeless residents in the Kalispell area in 2022 , up from 243 in 2021 and 235 in 2020. Kalispell has the second largest homeless population in the state, falling only behind Missoula, an alarming number as Kalispell’s number exceeds that of larger municipalities like Billings, Bozeman, Butte, Helena and Great Falls.

Family apartments at Samaritan House will be two- and three-bedroom units and will be set at affordable rates, as they will be funded by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Winchester said Samaritan House ultimately hopes to transition many of the families who come to their shelter to these longer-term apartments. Since Samaritan House knows the needs of families already housed in the shelter, the process of moving into the nonprofit’s new units will likely be easier than asking families to find affordable housing elsewhere, which is drastic supply shortage in the valley.

The organization secured half of the funds needed to complete the family apartments through grants and will raise the rest through fundraising efforts.

“Building Stability” will also include the creation of housing units and a community center for veterans. Kalispell has the second highest population of homeless veterans in the state of Montana, again second only to Missoula, a major factor in Samaritan House’s goal of increasing veteran-related services. Winchester said that in addition to transitional and permanent housing, the renovated armory space will provide veterans with a place to receive disability and mental health services, to visit medical providers and to socialize with each other.

“There is a tremendous amount of veterans in the area and there is no designated housing for them here in the Valley and surrounding counties,” Winchester said. “We’re going to have services here that are specific to our vets.”

The inspiration to create a veterans center didn’t just come from demand in the valley. Recently, Samaritan House came into contact with Steve and Elaine Olson, whose son, Mark, an Army National Guard veteran, died in 2011. While serving in the military, Mark worked in catering at the Kalispell Armory, the same Samaritan House site will soon begin its renovation. In memory of their son, the Olson family donated $80,000 to help renovate and complete the kitchen at the new Veterans Center, which will be called “Mark’s Kitchen.”

“It’s a really big, full-circle event,” Winchester said. “[Mark] served in the military here, and now we are renovating this to serve veterans.

While grants and community support for the project have been helpful in moving construction forward, Samaritan House continues to collect donations to complete the family apartments and veterans center. Those interested in making a contribution can send a check to Samaritan House or donate online through the organization website.

As fundraising efforts continue, Winchester pointed out that the Samaritan House is currently open to people in the Flathead Valley experiencing homelessness.

Each person who enters Samaritan House receives three hot meals a day and has the opportunity to work with a case manager to meet their specific needs. Winchester added that Samaritan House works closely with other local organizations, such as Abbie Shelter, Community Action Partnership of Northwestern Montana, the Warming Center and A Ray of Hope. If necessary, he can also refer people to other organizations that could better meet their needs.

“Right now we’re not at full capacity,” Winchester said. “We make room in the winter. We are there, we are open, we welcome people.

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