HELENA — The rising costs of housing and loss of resources are creating new pressure on serving Helena's unhoused but, there are new efforts for outreach to the homeless community.
"The general plan with staffing shortage with officers in the street or what have you is to have a dedicated Community Police Officer that would be dedicated to answering those calls about the transient populations Monday through Friday and focusing on the problem areas," said Sergeant Adam Shanks with the Helena Police Department.
Sergeant Shanks says new community police will start in July.
This officer is dedicated to answering calls in the Downtown, Eastside, and the North of Helena.
The new position comes as Helena sees an increase in the area's homeless population.
According to the 2021 Point in Time survey, Lewis and Clark County has seen a 50 percent increase in unhoused individuals living in the area.
"Summertime tends to bring more unsheltered folks in the community, are pretty savvy in the winter, to bed indoors, and the shelter takes in more people in the summertime," said Mark Nay, the Street Outreach Coordinator for Good Samaritan.
Nay says with affordable housing becoming scarce, rising rent and waitlists, it is crucial to have nonprofits band together to serve the unsheltered.
For example, a recent report from the Rocky Mountain Development Council found their properties to have a wait list of over 600 people and noted that an affordable apartment complex recently sold. The cheapest option at the complex went from 695 a month to 1025 a month, a 47 percent increase.
But local non-profits are working together to get resources into the hands of those who need it most.
"The shelter feeds folks, Our Place, who's operated by Good Samaritan also we provide breakfast and lunch so there are resources and people are aware they do care about the unsheltered like I said the biggest thing is just identifying who those folks are and keeping them within range of the resources," said Nay.
Still, it will take a more unified approach from local leaders, law enforcement, and developers to end homelessness.
"I think what's important to remember is that these folks on the streets are brothers and sisters, and mothers and fathers. They want to be treated just like everyone else," said Nay.
If you are in need of housing, or food you can contact Good Samaritan Ministries at (406) 442-0780