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Shelter providers discuss challenges facing unhoused people at first-ever summit

Graphic: Montana news from Montana Public Radio

Homeless shelters across Montana are serving more people with a greater variety of needs than ever before. That’s according to shelter providers who gathered at a first-of-its-kind homelessness summit in Missoula on May 23.

Shelter providers said they’re seeing increasing emergency housing needs for older Montanans, people with behavioral and physical disabilities, youth exiting the foster care system and others.

Stacey Umhey is the executive director of S.A.F.E., the only emergency shelter in Ravalli County. She said a major issue is the tight housing market, particularly in rural areas. The morning of the summit, Umhey said only four homes were listed for rent in Hamilton.

“We’re going to do emergency shelter because we have to, but that’s not going to meet people’s needs,” Umhey said. “And so, the challenge is what comes after shelter.”

The panel also discussed ways to combat the state’s homelessness crisis, including possible legislative action. Priorities from the group include state-sponsored grants for shelters providing support for elderly homeless people, veterans and families, and funding for long-term programs to help unhoused people find stable places to live.

Organizers said they hope the Montana Shelter Summit will become an annual event.

Austin graduated from the University of Montana’s journalism program in May 2022. He came to MTPR as an evening newscast intern that summer, and jumped at the chance to join full-time as the station’s morning voice in Fall 2022.

He is best reached by emailing
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