Low-Barrier Homeless Shelter Opens in Kalispell

Twenty-bed facility opened on Dec. 23

By Justin Franz
The Flathead Warming Center’s space in the basement of the Christ Episcopal Church in Kalispell. Courtesy photo

A new 20-bed, low-barrier homeless shelter opened at the Christ Church Episcopal in Kalispell — also known as the Red Door Church — on Dec. 23.

The Flathead Warming Center has been in the works for more than a year, but finding a location proved challenging, said co-chair Tonya Horn. Finally, in early December, the group announced that it had reached an agreement with the church to open in the basement.

Although there are shelters in Kalispell, there are no low-barrier facilities. Most shelters require residents not to be using drugs or have a criminal background, which means some people are unable to stay there and may be left in the cold, or have to sleep in their car or the police station lobby. The group is fashioning the Flathead Warming Center after a similar facility in Bozeman, according to Horn, a social worker who previously ran the warming center in Gallatin County.

The shelter will be open from 7 p.m. until 7 a.m. every day through winter.

On the first night the shelter was open, it hosted nine people, one dog and a bunny. The shelter has kennels for animals. Already, the shelter has become a popular spot for those unable to go anywhere else in the winter.

“We’ve maxed out at 20 a few nights, but thankfully we haven’t had to turn anyone away just yet,” Horn said. “I think this proves that there really is a need in the community.”

Horn said the group hopes to eventually have a permanent facility in the Kalispell area that can hold more people. Co-chair Luke Heffernan said in recent years some people have lost limbs because they had to sleep in the cold. Some seek shelter at the police station lobby, an area that is not set up to properly protect people.

To contact organizers, email warmandsafe@flatheadwarmingcenter.org. Donations can be sent to Flathead Warming Center, PO Box 7142, Kalispell, Montana 59904. For more information, visit FlatheadWarmingCenter.org. Financial donations are always welcome, as well as items such as socks and gloves.

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