Rising home & rental prices are leaving Helena families on the street

Helena Homeless population
Rising home & rental prices are leaving Helena families on the street
Posted at 4:42 PM, Sep 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-03 13:06:18-04

HELENA — It’s no secret finding housing in Helena is difficult right now, Rising home and rental prices are leaving some families in tough positions.

Helena resident Paula Barnes lives in a recreational vehicle. She says she was brought to this situation when her rent increased, and she was not happy with her living situation.

"My life hasn't fallen apart because of drugs, my life falls apart because of people saying, well, you're just not good enough. Good enough for what? If I were not good enough, I wouldn't have been born," said Barnes.

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After a childhood car crash, she now relies on disability in which a social security check is issued once a month, which she says adds up to $750 a month.

"If you don't have Section 8 or don't qualify for HUD housing, to get a place is almost impossible," she noted.

With her income, Barnes could apply for assistance like the housing choice voucher. This program is federally funded through the U.S (United States) Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and is administered by Montana Housing at the Montana Department of Commerce.

However, because of demand the waiting list to receive the services could take three to four years before a person can receive help.

Some Montanans are working two jobs to make ends meet while waiting on the list, like Sara Messerschmidt.

Messerschmidt works as a dental assistant and a bartender but still currently lives in a dorm room at God's Love, a homeless shelter in Helena.

She says she has been looking for a place to call home for more than a month but cannot find anything affordable. Adding, she wants to find a home for her two children but has not found anything in her budget.

"A studio apartment that I have been able to hear back from is going for 800 dollars, a studio that's 650 square feet," she said.

That studio apartment Messerschmidt mentioned is roughly the size of two standard spaces of a parking lot.

Due to her circumstances and a child custody case, she cannot see her children every day.

"Devastating, it's hard, it's hard, it's probably one of the hardest things I've had to go through," she said.

When it comes to the housing crises in Helena, both women say the city needs more resources to help those struggling with housing.

Messerschmidt said, "More of a men's shelter and a female shelter."

Barnes said, "Take some of these old buildings around town and fix them up and give us a place to live again."

The unfortunate reality is thousands of Montanans, just like Barnes and Messerschmidt, are one unexpected expense from facing homelessness.

Resources in Helena that help people who are facing homelessness:

Good Samaritan Thrift Store
3067 N Montana Ave, Helena, MT 59601
(406) 442-0780

God's Love Inc.
533 N Last Chance Gulch, Helena, MT 59601
(406) 442-7000

The Salvation Army Helena
1905 Henderson St, Helena, MT 59601
(406) 442-8244

Our Place
631 N Last Chance Gulch, Helena, MT 59601
(406) 389-0223

Catholic Social Services of Montana
1301 11th Ave, Helena, MT 59601
(406) 442-4130

Helena Housing Authority
812 Abbey St, Helena, MT 59601
(406) 442-7970