Saturday, October 23, 2021
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Samaritan House plans address a crucial need

| October 3, 2021 12:00 AM

There’s a lot of rhetoric these days about the challenges of homelessness and the need for more affordable housing in the Flathead Valley — lots of talk but little action.

Samaritan House, however, has proposed a plan to expand its homeless shelter and low-cost housing capacity, and we say bravo. This is a tangible step in the right direction.

The nonprofit organization has been the front line of support for the homeless community for decades. Now it’s asking the city of Kalispell for approval to renovate and repurpose its armory property on Second Street West, a plan that would create more space in the existing shelter and add separate low-cost housing units.

Samaritan House proposes to build 16 new two- and three-bedroom multi-family units on its armory property and convert the armory into 16 single-occupancy units for veterans.

The plan also involves adding a kitchen and a cafeteria in the armory, in order to free up space for more beds in the existing shelter. And Samaritan House Executive Director Chris Krager pointed out the existing shelter on Ninth Avenue West certainly can use the extra space. It houses 90 to 105 people every night.

Krager also pointed out that Kalispell is one of the largest Montana cities with no dedicated veteran housing.

The proposal will need a zone change and a conditional-use permit to make it happen, and we urge both the Planning Board and City Council to support this worthy endeavor. The ultimate goal of expanding Samaritan House’s housing options is to end homelessness by providing not only shelter but also the stability and independence that can boost homeless individuals out of poverty.

THERE'S ANOTHER bit of positive news in Kalispell that involves our most vulnerable residents. The Flathead Warming Center reopens this fall with a grand opening on Oct. 16 to celebrate a renovated and upgraded facility for those who need shelter from the cold. The permanent facility at 889 N. Meridian Road will offer more showers, restrooms and a laundry room. The renovations are the most recent in a string of developments the hard-working team has championed for the low-barrier shelter, which provides housing without the requirements present at some traditional homeless shelters.

The Flathead Warming Center has been a grassroots effort from the get-go, starting in the basement of Christ Episcopal Church two years ago. This endeavor has been entirely community funded.

As the weather turns cold in the coming weeks, let’s not forget those struggling to find shelter and warmth at night. The missions of both the Samaritan House and the Flathead Warming Center could be furthered from financial and volunteer support from those of us who are able to give.