Service providers with the Samaritan House are making progress toward their $16.9 million fundraising goal after securing $750,000 of state funding, which comes as the nonprofit homeless shelter and transitional living facility prepares to break ground on its affordable housing expansion project this spring.
Through the Montana Department of Commerce Housing Trust Fund (HTF) program, the dollars will contribute to the Samaritan House’s expansion, a project that includes multifamily and single-occupancy units, as well as a remodel of the armory building where the nonprofit’s administrative offices currently exist.
Executive Director Chris Krager said the Samaritan House has secured $4.4 million through state and federal funding as well as donations so far, but that it is still a long way from reaching its end goal.
In its first phase of the project, known as “Building Stability,” construction crews will build 18 two- and three-bedroom apartments that will be priced at fixed affordable rates, with plans for them to be subsidized under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) program.
“Building Stability” will also include the construction of 15 handicap accessible, single occupancy units and a community center for veterans. Kalispell has the second-highest population of homeless veterans in the state of Montana, only ranking behind Missoula — a leading factor in Samaritan House’s goal to increase veteran-related services.
“Kalispell is the largest city in the state of Montana with zero dedicated homeless housing,” Krager said. “So, we’re going to fix that.”
In phase three, the former armory building that currently houses administrative offices will be remodeled to condense the office space while also serving as overflow space for 30 pop-up shelter beds during emergencies, such as severe cold weather or during wildfire season.
The expansion comes as homeless numbers continue to rise in the Flathead Valley while the demand for social services outpaces supply.
According to the MT Continuum of Care Coalition Point-in-Time (PIT) data collected in 2022, an estimated 319 homeless people were living in Kalispell, ranking a close second in the state behind the 325 homeless people reported living in Missoula, which has three times the population of Kalispell. Experts note that, while PIT data offers the most accurate tracking input available, quantifying homeless population figures presents numerous challenges since not every unsheltered person can be located to take the survey.
Krager is currently collecting PIT data for the start of 2024, but says that, anecdotally, numbers appear to have increased since last year.
“We fully can make an educated guess that homeless numbers have increased,” Krager said.
“The demand for services is up and every service organization says they are a full every night,” Krager added.
Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.
Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.