PROMO Map - Montana State Map - iStock - dk_photos

Montana homeless population increase leads the nation

© iStock - dk_photos

Click play to listen to this article.

Audio file

(Big Sky Connection) A new report shows Montana has the nation's most rapidly rising homeless population. Advocates for more affordable housing call the situation critical.

One Kalispell-based shelter is asking for state funding to expand, and do what it can to help.

The most recent Annual Homelessness Assessment Report shows Montana saw a 551 percent increase in its unsheltered population, the steepest rise in the country between 2007 and 2023.

PROMO 660 x 440 Community - Color Paper Words - iStock


Kalispell-based Samaritan House Executive Director Chris Krager said he feels the pinch every night.

"I like to think we can handle it," said Krager. "We're trying to address it. Samaritan House, we see between 95 and 105 people every night."

That's capacity for Samaritan House, which Krager said has been full every night for a decade - and often has to help people find other options.

He has asked for state funds to expand the facility, which would double its occupancy.

In addition to building single and multi-family housing, Samaritan House also plans to create housing for veterans.

Krager said they often experience mental health issues along with homelessness. The report shows Montana was one of only four states with an increase in homeless veterans.

"Kalispell is the largest city in Montana with no dedicated homeless veteran housing," said Krager. "So, we're going to fix that. The reason this is serious is because the nature of homelessness in Montana - certain times of the year, it could be fatal. So, we want to really be on our game, especially if it's cold out."

More than 30 percent of people in Montana's homeless shelters reported a mental health and/or substance use disorder in 2022. The report shows in some shelters, that number is nearly two-thirds.