HELENA – Data shared Monday at the first-ever statewide conference on homelessness showed a slow decline in Montana’s homeless population.
The numbers, which are based on the most recent “point in time” surveys, show a drop of roughly 500 people in the homeless population over the past five years.
“We have a lot of homeless, still, in Montana. It’s a shocking number of over 1,400,” said Missoula Housing Authority Director of HUD Programs Jim McGrath. “But we have seen some decline in homelessness meaning that the work that a lot of my colleagues have around the state are doing to address that has made a difference. It’s a slow difference. It’s still a big problem. But we are making headway.”
That’s not to say homelessness isn’t a prominent problem especially in Missoula where there are still more than 300 people without regular shelter, the highest in the state.
That’s followed by Billings, Great Falls, Kalispell and Helena. With the exception of Great Falls, all trends are downward.
McGrath said there are concerns last year’s budget cuts could have a ripple effect, and numbers could climb once more. But for now, the collaborative approach is working.
“That’s the only way that we can do that. But we also find that it turns out when — I might have something, and you might have something, and somebody else might have something — we put those three things together we have much bigger impact,” McGrath said. “Whereas, separately it’s not really doing much.”
The conference continues Tuesday in Helena.
Reported by Dennis Bragg for MTN News