HELENA — As temperatures continue to drop, nonprofit organizations are working hard to help protect the unsheltered population.
“As we know in Montana, we have cold winters. Last year was particularly cold and it taught us some lessons about how to care for our unsheltered neighbors,” said Jeff Buscher, the Community Impact Coordinator at United Way.
As temperatures fall, the cold weather becomes more dangerous to people struggling with homelessness.
At the 2022 longest night ceremony, members of the community remembered the 17 people who died due to homelessness in the Helena area last year.
At last year’s Point in Time survey, United Way found 164 unsheltered people and over 100 more using some kind of outside resource to provide housing.
“Doing what we can to make sure they are fed, can stay warm and hopefully meet some of their other needs,” said Buscher. “But the first thing we have to try to do is to get some housing for them, whether that emergency, transitional or permanent housing.”
The school district found about 300 unhoused students in their survey last year.
Shelters like God’s Love and Our Place are expanding their capacity and giving out donations.
“We are working with god’s love I believe they are opening their evening stays tonight,” Buscher said. “The folks at our place are a day center and they allow folks to come in during the day. They have workshops and some training for them.”
“Friendship center, family promise, they are all doing their best. I think they are very close to capacity at this point,” said Buscher.
United Way says these support organizations are always in need of extra help to accommodate the increase in people needing their services.
“It’s going to require volunteer assistance,” Buscher said. “There are a lot of ways for folks to volunteer.”