Homelessness concerns rise as the temperature drops

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Posted at 10:28 AM, Nov 23, 2022

HELENA — The onset of winter weather has created an additional need for groups in Helena that help unsheltered people

"We normally have beds available until it does get cold, but we were full all summer long and the way that it's looking as it leads into winter is just last night we had 31 people check-in. So that's going to start being our nightly occurrence," said Gods Love Office Manager Rachel Saunders.

God's Love, located in downtown Helena, is one of several non-profits that help the area homeless. The organizations normally see more than 100 people needing help each winter.

Their busiest time is typically in January, but this year, they are seeing that level of need two months earlier than normal.

Saunders says they don't generally turn people away at God's Love. Their main concern is the individual's welfare when temperatures get below freezing.

"We tell everyone when they check-in, you know, we don't care if you're drinking. We don't care if you're on drugs, if you can handle your behavior, you're welcome to stay because we are having, you know, over 30 people in our overflow zone, plus the other 60 throughout our building," said Saunders.

Helena Police Captain Randy Ranalli says most calls involving homeless or unsheltered individuals are welfare checks. Ranalli says some of the areas unsheltered may avoid God's Love.

That's where non-profits like Good Samaritan have been a big help to secure housing.

"With the weather changing, they have, you know, assisted them in getting hopefully some housing or, or they have provided tents. So that's kind of the biggest resource right now," said Ranalli.

Good Samaritan Ministries website says they work with the local united way to offer several different forms of housing assistance. Including emergency assistance.

Over the summer HPD also had an officer dedicated to community outreach with area unsheltered, but that position was seasonal and utilized a school resource officer.

"It helped with regular calls for service with our patrol division that they could focus on calls other than the homeless population calls, and also gave that officer a better insight that was assigned down there. Um, to get to know the homeless population, um, have that rapport with them and you try to assist them in getting resources," said Ranalli.

God's Love says that if anyone is looking to help, they are in particular need of cleaning supplies and toiletries right now.

They will continue to use all their available space to help people in need this winter.

"And we fill every inch under tables, under desks. We open up this area that me and you were sitting in," Saunders said, "This is the nursing facility. We open this whole section up and we just put cots throughout the entire building wherever we can."