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Point-In-Time count typically shows about 600 homeless in Billings

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Posted at 11:25 PM, Jan 25, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-26 11:07:38-05

BILLINGS - Jan. 25 marked a critical point in the year for a better understanding of just how many homeless residents are living in Montana.

Between 2007 and 2023, homelessness increased by 89 percent in the Treasure State. That's the second-highest spike in the nation.

The point-in-time count shows how many people in Billings may be homeless.

Last year, volunteers counted 598.

It's an important number because it will help determine how much money can come back to help.

The U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) requires Continuums of Care across the country to do the survey.

"We gather all the services we can in one night to see who's sleeping on the streets," said Kody Christensen, Downtown Billings Alliance resource outreach coordinator and part of the Yellowstone County County Continuum Of Care. "Either in a place that's not habitable for humans, or they might also be staying in a shelter or transitional housing is also included in that."

Some of those opportunities to county happen during the Salvation Army dinner deliveries.

The survey helps determine HUD funding.

Christensen says last year, the state continuum of care received $4.7 million, with about $260,000 going to Yellowstone County and the YWCA.

"The reason why this account is so important is it could bring more funding to Montana where we can expand services or bring on new services that could fix all these issues," Christensen said.

Currently, it is believed that there are more than 600 people in the unhoused community.

"People right now I think are pretty careful about talking about where they are," Catherine Card, who has volunteered during past point-in-time surveys, said about the challenges in getting an accurate count.

Card is a member of Bethlehem Lutheran Church, which has worked with St. Vincent DePaul and the Salvation Army to provide showers to the homeless.

She has seen the challenges the population endures daily and says even with all the services in the continuum of care, Billings needs a low-barrier shelter.

"It's handicapped accessible," Card said about what makes a low-barrier shelter. "It does not require sobriety. It permits people who are in all kinds of crises and stages of addiction."

Card says a low-barrier shelter would make all the other help even better.

"It would be more effective and it would save policing time and emergency services time and jail space," Card said.

"Our community is definitely moving in the right direction," Christensen said. " We're trying to figure out what we can do that helps the population in the best way that we can."