Helping the Homeless

Samaritan House seeking donations as winter approaches and director recovers from injury

By Tristan Scott
Chris Krager, executive director of Samaritan House. Beacon File Photo

Even after falling on hard times, Chris Krager’s eternal optimism shines through.

The executive director of the Samaritan House, the largest refuge for homeless men, women and children in Northwest Montana, literally fell last month while cleaning leaves out of the gutter on his roof, rupturing a disc and requiring a costly surgery.

But Krager was between insurance policies because his wife had recently resigned from her job, leaving the family temporarily without insurance coverage.

“The window of vulnerability was very ill-timed,” Krager said.

Friends from Austin, Texas set up a GoFundMe account online, and in just over two weeks raised more than $16,000 of the $35,000 goal to cover Krager’s surgery.

“Everybody is just so nice, it’s unreal,” Krager said.

As the head of a transitional housing facility providing shelter to the region’s homeless population, Krager is accustomed to being on the giving end rather than receiving. This season, however, his ability to provide depends on the community’s willingness to give.

Samaritan House averages 100 percent occupancy throughout the year in the shelter and transitional living units, but as winter arrives in earnest the shelter’s resources are stretched especially thin.

This year, the perennial struggle is exacerbated due to Samaritan House’s loss of a federal housing appropriation grant totaling $56,624, forcing Krager to trim personnel and do more with less, while turning to the public for additional donations.

“Losing the grant makes for a tough year. I found a grant that will fill the gap, but it’s not available until next year. So that leaves us in a tough position,” Krager said.

Samaritan House has raised $32,000, leaving a gap just as the busy season arrives.

“We have been covering it with savings and trying to figure out how we can be as efficient as possible, but cutting personnel hours is tough this time of year. We are asking staff to do more with less, and it’s a challenge,” Krager said.

The staff also helps with housing and employment searches and other practical aspects that can lead to a successful fresh start, and Krager said the shelter had an 86 percent success rate last year, compared to 72 percent as a national standard for other homeless programs.

Samaritan House serves approximately 1,350 local homeless people every year, sheltering around 78 people every night.

To provide assistance to help Samaritan House get through the grant funding gap end your donation to: Samaritan House, 124 9th Ave. West, Kalispell, MT, 59901.

Donations can also be made online at samaritanhousemt.com

To help Krager and his family cover his medical costs, visit https://www.gofundme.com/chris-krager-spinal-surgery.

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