It's not a surprise - there is an affordable housing crisis in Ravalli County. The Bitterroot Affordable Housing Coalition presented conclusions of their Homelessness and Housing Needs Assessment to the Ravalli County Commission Monday morning.

Jim Morton told the commissioners that "housing insecurity" is one of the glaring problems. That includes the situations where a household spends over 30 percent of their budget on housing alone, such as rent or mortgage costs. Jamie Ogden said that of 200 students at the Bitterroot College UM in Hamilton, several are homeless and many others are spending 50 percent to 100 percent of their income on rent. Even those who have come to the valley with opportunities for higher paying jobs are not finding affordable places to live.

The most recently completed Needs Assessment showed that homelessness and affordable housing is a definite problem and that there is a lack of affordable housing, which is having a ripple effect on employment. For instance, the offer of a low-paying job doesn't come close to paying a high rent, so they don't take the job. And it showed that current assistance services are "maxed out." Morton said many people are "doubling up," where they are living with friends or other family members because they cannot find affordable housing of their own. Others are living in their vehicles or at campsites. And the campsites are bulging.

Stacey Umhey said that SAFE in the Bitterroot (Supporters of Abuse-Free Environments) helps victims of domestic abuse. Its transitional housing is completely full and they were unable to use all of a recent rent-assistance grant because there were no rentals available. In 2020 and 2021, SAFE has helped 40 families with 78 children.

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Ideas at the meeting included a possible Hamilton/Ravalli County joint plan to develop a site for affordable housing apartments. But, that project would take years. And finding property that could access city water and sewer is a problem.

The homeless are being helped by the Family Shelter organization. KLYQ talked with Gary Locke of that organization, who said there is no overnight warming shelter currently in the county, but he's working on a possible location. Meanwhile, the group is providing about four suppers a week to those who need it.

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