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Bozeman Warming Center grapples with increasing homeless population this winter

Posted at 2:32 PM, Dec 18, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-18 17:35:13-05

BOZEMAN – Last winter, 287 individuals had a warm and safe place to sleep because of Bozeman’s Warming Center.

There was an overflow of people in need, and Christ the King Lutheran Church became a second location.

As the need for shelter is an even higher demand this winter, the Human Resource Development Council is seeking a larger location for its Warming Center. HRDC estimates between 100 to 150 people experience homelessness in Gallatin County.

The Warming Center and Christ the King Lutheran church offer seasonal shelter to those in need.

This winter, the center has been over capacity for much of the season.

“We’re not looking to open a new location, we’re looking for another location in which we can put everybody in and one that might be able to serve those guests better,” said Shari Eslinger, housing department director for the HRDC.

In the first seven years that the Warming Center was open, there was a 20 percent increase in guests, and last year marked a 30 percent increase.

“It has been growing and we are to a point where if we do not find another location we will have to start asking people to leave. We wouldn’t be able to serve everyone who is seeking emergency shelter,” Eslinger said.

But why is there this increase in homelessness in the Bozeman area?

Eslinger said, “There’s a lot of reasons you can speculate why. Increasing housing prices, we have an increase in commercial bringing in a lot of people but they’re not able to afford housing.”

On a positive note, Eslinger mentioned they have only seen one family needing to use the emergency shelter services this winter and in past years they have had several families.

Reporting by Emma Hamilton for MTN News