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Project to provide veterans’ housing deserves support

| May 26, 2024 12:00 AM

No veteran who has sacrificed for our freedoms should be faced with the consequences of living on the street — yet that is increasingly the case in Montana.

Approximately six of every 10 people experiencing homelessness in the state are veterans. That’s according to data collected on a single night in January 2023 for an annual report compiled by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. 

And despite a national trend revealing a significant reduction in the overall number of veterans experiencing homelessness beginning in 2009, Montana remains among just five states where that number has increased over the same time frame.

While it’s not a large increase — just half a percent more over the last 15 years — nonetheless, it’s a statistic moving in the wrong direction.

Thankfully, a Kalispell nonprofit is making fantastic strides in turning the tide.

As detailed in the Inter Lake’s two-part series published last week, the Samaritan House in Kalispell is closing in on its $16.9 million campaign to build an expansion that includes 16 apartments for veterans, as well as 18 two- to three-bedroom apartments for families.

Once the expansion is complete the facility is expected to serve 85 to 100 additional people, effectively doubling its capacity. 

Samaritan House Executive Director Chris Krager notes that roughly 30% of its residents are former servicemen and women, and many of them are from the Vietnam era, getting older in age and needing heightened medical care.

“Kalispell is the largest city in Montana with no dedicated homeless veteran housing, and so we’re going to fix that,” Krager said. “We know Montanans as a general population have a higher percentage of veterans, and that also filters down to our unhoused neighbors.” 

The new apartments are even built with veterans’ needs in mind. Along with being ADA compliant, veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder will benefit from the trauma-informed design — like the lack of long hallways or hidden corners.

As the often heated discourse about services for the Flathead Valley’s homeless population carries on — there should be no question about the significance and necessity of Samaritan House’s work to shelter local veterans in their time of need, and provide access to the resources they need to overcome homelessness.

Any donation, large or small, is a worthy investment to push their campaign across the finish line. Learn more at samaritanhousemt.com.