Guest Column

A Challenging and Rewarding Season at the Flathead Warming Center

We remain committed to our mission to save lives, link people to resources and encourage dignity through low-barrier access to a warm safe place for those in need

By The Flathead Warming Center Board of Directors

The Flathead Warming Center’s winter emergency shelter services are quickly coming to an end. April 30 will be the last night we host overnight guests for the 2022-2023 winter season.

Providing overnight shelter services seasonally is an intentional and focused philosophy. Providing emergency shelter year-round can be enabling and counterproductive, and we believe a certain amount of discomfort is needed for our guests to avoid complacency and to embrace meaningful change in their lives. At the Warming Center we have a 100-night countdown toward our seasonal closing date to promote a sense of urgency. Throughout the season and especially during this countdown, we partner with our guests to help them pursue steps to move beyond homelessness.

While our shelter season concludes at the end of April, our services do not end then. In our efforts to link our guests to community support and services, we will be open through the summer months beginning May 8 on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. During these hours we will provide individuals and families with access to showers and laundry services. These summer services enable us to continue to empower those we serve with tools and resources to move beyond homelessness.

The Flathead Warming Center’s winter season has been both challenging and rewarding. We saw record-breaking low temps of 34 degrees below zero in December, which put the homeless community in grave danger. We also saw an increase in demand for shelter services as local mental health resources are being cut and as home prices and rental rates continue to rise.

This season we increased our shelter capacity by 10 beds, bringing our total to 50. Unfortunately, even with 50 beds, we were forced to turn away individuals over 363 times due to lack of capacity. These were

local individuals and families who were in need of a warm, safe place to sleep during the Flathead’s brutally cold nights.

We have, however, been able to serve 326 individuals during 174 nights this shelter season. We provided 3,055 showers, 1,476 guest loads of laundry and 8,700 meals. We linked guests on-site to community resources to move beyond homelessness over 1,000 times.

We’ve provided 9,150 shelter stays so far this winter season. This means we prevented individuals from sleeping on the streets of Kalispell and surrounding towns 9,150 times. That’s 9,150 ways in which we helped to keep our community safer and stronger. We appreciate those in the community who understand that we are part of the solution to homelessness and we encourage those who aren’t yet sure of how we do that, to contact us to visit our facility and to learn more.

We remain committed to our mission to save lives, link people to resources, and encourage dignity through low-barrier access to a warm safe place for those in need. We are community funded and supported. We thank the community for their strong support of the Flathead Warming Center and the other ministries and agencies that provide help and shelter to those without a home in our community.

The Flathead Warming Center Board of Directors
Luke Heffernan, Chairman
Darrin Andrews, Vice Chairman
Haley Barrile, Treasurer
Jane Emmert, Secretary
Nick Aemisegger
Jerie Betschart
Bethany Johnson
Roger Nasset
Jeffrey Scogin
Steve Snipstead
Shirley Willis