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Tribal advocates keep up legal pressure for fair political maps; 12-member jury sworn in for Trump's historic criminal trial; the importance of healthcare decision planning; and a debt dilemma: poll shows how many people wrestle with college costs.

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Civil rights activists say a court ruling could end the right to protest in three southern states, a federal judge lets January 6th lawsuits proceed against former President Trump, and police arrest dozens at a Columbia University Gaza protest.

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Rural Wyoming needs more vocational teachers to sustain its workforce pipeline, Ohio environmental advocates fear harm from a proposal to open 40-thousand forest acres to fracking and rural communities build bike trail systems to promote nature, boost the economy.

Helena ups efforts to track, shelter homeless Montanans

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Wednesday, February 14, 2024   

Helena is stepping up efforts to track its homeless population.

The number of people living without shelter has risen sharply since the city started counting in 2018. When Helena began tracking its homeless population five yeas ago, the point-in-time survey was new.

Jeff Buscher, community impact coordinator for the United Way in Helena, said volunteers are able to more accurately track people who don't have permanent shelter, thanks in large part to more community involvement.

"At least here in Helena, folks' awareness has been raised considerably about our unsheltered population," Buscher observed.

Buscher pointed out the number of volunteers helping count unsheltered people has nearly doubled. While final numbers for 2024 won't be available until May, volunteers found 44 people living in vehicles in this year's survey, an increase over recent years. The 2023 survey found 164 homeless people living in Helena.

While the weather was slightly warmer this year than in previous surveys, Buscher noted Montana's climate has historically played a critical role in shaping the homeless count.

"Folks are very engaged and concerned about the needs of our unsheltered population," Buscher emphasized. "Because we do live in a sometimes very hostile climate. When it gets deathly cold, there's a lot of folks that get very concerned about whether folks are outside."

The homeless counts help determine how much federal money Helena and other Montana cities will get to address the unsheltered problem.


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