Missoula County

Montana’s unusually frigid winter this year forced the Salvation Army to plow through its entire $39,600 rental and deposit assistance program by March 8, prompting the group to request and receive an additional $7,000 Thursday from Missoula County.

The money was supposed to last through April, but fell short almost two months early. They turned to a $10,000 rental assistant grant through the Emergency Food and Shelter Grant, but that only lasted until March 15.

“Since running out of that funding last Friday, we have 32 households on a waiting list hoping for a little help to stay housed,” Julie Clark, a social service coordinator at the Salvation Army, wrote in a March 22 letter to Nancy Rittel, a grants administrator for Missoula County. “With an extra $7,000 we could potentially help up to 20 more households and keep them in housing.”

Rittel said the funds will come from the Community Assistance Fund, which is a county-levied fund that dates back at least 20 years. Each year, competitive applications are submitted for review, and the Salvation Army received $39,600 for the rental assistance program during the county’s regular budgeting process.

“Contingency funds are set aside during the budgeting process for instances like these,” Rittel added.

The Salvation Army’s rental assistance program is separate from the emergency warming shelter it opened for the winter. The Salvation Army was able to raise enough money on its own to fund the warming shelter.

In her letter, Clark said they have assisted 151 households with Emergency Winter Shelter Funding. They take applications every week, which go before a review committee for the one-time gift of $300 to $400.

“Within those households, there have been 161 children … and seven seniors on very limited incomes,” Clark wrote in the letter. “We have negotiated with many landlords to keep our applicants housed.”

They also work closely with Missoula’s Coordinated Entry System that tries to prevent households from entering the homeless system, as well as the At-Risk Housing Coalition task force and other area programs.

Clark added that the total amount of aid requested this year was $130,600, so The Salvation Army’s assistance was only 30 percent of what was sought.

“This year, with the extra-long winter, I have seen an increase of need for families where one of the main providers works in construction and has not been able to get work due to snow levels,” Clark wrote. “There has been also an increase of families with members in the hospital due to sickness and not being able to work. These micro-loans have also been used to help our houseless friends get into housing by helping with deposits.”

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