Before more than 100 individuals were told to move out of their rooms at the FairBridge Inn and Suites in February, displacing many of them and drawing outcry from the community, Cassidy Kipp of Community Action Partnership of Northwest Montana (CAPNM) had already been receiving stacks of applications from people in desperate need of housing.
With a rental vacancy rate hovering just above 0%, Kipp has seen a 65% increase in the number of applicants with kids over the last 90 days.
“FairBridge highlighted an immediate need,” Kipp said. “Our community is experiencing something a lot bigger and the FairBridge was a tiny piece of that issue … It was a good place to start a conversation.”
To address that immediate need, CAPNM has purchased three modulars that will hold 17 rental units and will be priced well below market rate.
As the units sit in storage, officials are hoping to partner with local landowners or donors so they can acquire at least one acre of land to install the units.
Comparable to oil field trailers, each unit has a private door, bathroom, food prep area, a bed, desk and a TV, including four handicap accessible units.
The project is intended to house people who are experiencing homelessness or who have high barriers to gaining rental units and there is no limit to how long a renter can stay there.
“HUD has really moved away from the transitional housing idea,” Kipp said. “We don’t use the label because transitional or temporary implies there’s an end date and when there’s an exit date, people perform worse.”
In addition to CAPNM’s four other low-income apartment complexes across the valley, which are always at capacity, the organization also offers case management services, house stabilization plans, budgeting services and they help identify barriers to housing.
“We’re an antipoverty agency and we’re also about tools for self-sufficiency,” Kipp said.
While the agency has the modular units ready for occupants, Kipp says there aren’t any property leads in the Flathead yet. The nonprofit hoping to purchase, lease or they would accept a donation for the land, ideally in a location that’s accessible to the Mountain Climber bus or near a bike path.
To learn more about a partnership, call CAPNM at (406) 752-6565.
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