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First of its kind homelessness summit comes to Missoula

Posted at 11:14 AM, May 24, 2024

MISSOULA — The Missoula Public Library hosted a summit that is the first of its kind on Thursday put on by the Montana Coalition to Solve Homelessness. The 2024 Shelter Summit brought together shelter providers, direct service workers and those with lived experience.

The summit started off by discussing the current challenges that the shelter provides face.

The challenges mainly revolved around a lack of resources the shelters can provide when it comes to mental health, elderly care, medical care and child care.

The solutions to these issues, are difficult but not impossible according to the shelter providers.

According to Heather Grenier, President and CEO of HRDC in Bozeman, “the biggest barriers to those solutions are just, it takes a lot of time and energy to develop and it's an expensive solution.

However, when you look at the alternative, and the way I usually frame it is, what's happening right now is people are without housing and they're gaining access to all these services that are costing our communities a lot of money, typically about 30 to $40,000 a year to support someone without housing in community services that they're accessing.

For $20,000 a year, you can house them and provide supportive services that actually have positive outcomes. Where if we stay status quo, we're spending that money, but we're not achieving any outcome.”

Brayton Erickson Executive Director, at the Butte Rescue Mission, stated that “we can solve the problem. You know, there is a lot of hope. It's not just all hopeless, it's not just growing, growing, growing, growing. We work together like this and when we understand that it's, it's people and it's trauma and it's, it's a, it's a lot of complexities, but when we understand those we can, we can fix it.”

Besides understanding the complexity is part of the equation but Chris Krager, Executive Director at Samaritan Center Kalispell, also said that a wide support structure is also part of the solution to solving homelessness.

“I think it's part of a healthy community when you have a broad range of services and supports. And so as to increase the possibility of meeting the client where they are and providing what they need. And I think that's a beautiful thing.”

Overall, one of the key takeaways from this first of its kind summit was that it takes a whole community, coming together, to help support those experiencing homelessness. And maybe with that, we will become one step closer to solving this issue across the state.