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Checking Tents, Campers and Sheds for MT Homeless Count

PHOTO: Volunteers started locating and interviewing homeless people in Montana last night, for the annual "Point in Time" Homeless Count. Photo credit: Deborah C. Smith
PHOTO: Volunteers started locating and interviewing homeless people in Montana last night, for the annual "Point in Time" Homeless Count. Photo credit: Deborah C. Smith
January 25, 2013

HELENA, Mont. – Tents, campers, sheds, and friends' couches. That's how thousands of Montanans bed down each night, and volunteers started trying to locate them yesterday (Thursday) for the annual Point in Time Homeless Count.

And while homelessness isn't as easy to spot in a rural state as it can be in a big city, a Homelessness Research Institute report shows the homeless population in Montana has been growing – with significant increases for families and veterans through 2011.

Sherri Downing is president of the Montana Coalition for the Homeless.

"You know,” she says, “I think we need to get serious about looking at funding the kinds of things that prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place, or give them ready access to resource if they do become homeless."

Downing adds that prevention means affordable housing, and access to emergency funds to keep housing when families lose a job, face catastrophic health care bills, or lose a home to foreclosure.

The counts help to ensure that those who help the homeless are responding adequately to the needs. Downing says after meeting with homeless people all around the state since 2004, she thinks living wage jobs are a big need.

"And people are hard workers,” she says. “People are not lazy. If you give people an opportunity to work, they will work their hearts out. Especially in Montana, I think we're so self-reliant, self-sufficient, so proud."

Point-in-time counts are held nationwide in January, and are required for homelessness programs that receive federal funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.


Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - MT