HELENA — Helena has seen an increase in the number of homeless and unsheltered people over the past 5 years. And as demand for services has grown, shelters like God's Love have worked to keep up.
God’s Love, a local Helena non-profit that works to house and feed those in need, is getting ready for the winter season. With a steadily increasing homeless population, the nonprofit hasn’t seen the normal dip in people at their shelter over the summer.
“In the past few years we've had a lot of people from out of state coming here and we've really been full. So typically, our summers we have plenty of bed space and we're more on the emptier side, but the last couple years, and especially this summer, we were just full all summer long. And as we lead into winter we're kind of wondering how it'll go this winter because we've already been full all year long,” says office manager for God’s Love, Rachel Saunders.
According to the HUD point in time survey done each January, there were 143 homeless individuals recorded in 2022: 133 sheltered and 10 unsheltered.
That's down from 2021 when the pandemic changed how the count was done.
The data also showed that 60-70% of our unsheltered population in Helena are Montana residents, not people from other states.
God’s Love is currently at full capacity, and with an expected influx of people when the weather turns, they are working to figure out what to do for the winter season.
“This winter what we're planning is we're planning on our typical, you know, cot collection, sleeping bag, air mats. So, we'd always tell people hey, if you've got extra sleeping bags from summer, you're not using, we can use them all because there's, you know, 36 on our floor for winter. But we do have even more people who still camp outside during the winter,” says Saunders.
Saunders says they are looking at adding another shed on the property for storage. And that they will do what they’ve done in years prior and open up their floors for people to sleep on when the weather gets below 30 degrees and the beds are full.