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'Tragic situation': Homelessness in Livingston rising

'Tragic situation': Homelessness in Livingston rising
Posted at 6:56 PM, Jan 25, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-26 11:07:49-05

LIVINGSTON — In just one year, the number of people experiencing homelessness in Livingston tripled, according to the 2023 point-in-time count.

On Thursday, the 2024 point-in-time count will occur again across Montana, identifying those experiencing homelessness.

“So, we’ll go out and try and connect with those folks and try to get an accurate number of people experiencing homelessness in Livingston,” HRDC Housing Director Brian Guyer said on Thursday.

Guyer said in Park County, homelessness is harder to see than in Billings, Bozeman or Missoula.

“Here in Livingston, homelessness looks a little different,” Guyer said. “We have a lot of people who are couch surfing, who are living in vehicles, living in unconnected RVs and other places that aren’t meant for human habitation.”

Dean Williamson, the HRDC Livingston supervisor, will join the count on Thursday evening.

“How long have you been without stable housing? How did this happen in the first place? You know, questions like that to try to get at the root of what's going on,” Williamson said. “We see mainly the most vulnerable residents of Livingston and Park County.”

In 2022, the point-in-time count identified 11 people experiencing homelessness, in 2023 that number was 48. Both Williamson and Guyer mentioned that the count last year could have been slightly increased because people using the emergency rental assistance program were included in the count.

'Tragic situation': Homelessness in Livingston rising

“These point-in-time counts are always revealing in one way or another, but I do anticipate, you know I think, we know sort of anecdotally that there are more people who are in need of overnight shelter services than there have been in the past,” Guyer said.

The count also found that of those experiencing homelessness in Livingston, 15% were between the ages of 16 to 24. Sixty-two percent reported living with one or more disabling conditions related to physical, chronic or mental health or substance use, and over 50% had been in the community for 10 years or longer.

Guyer said they have also seen an increase in elderly and families needing assistance or using the emergency shelter space.

“We’re definitely not immune to the issues that they’re seeing in Gallatin County, and we’re seeing people being displaced by some of those higher wages coming over from Gallatin,” Guyer said. “It’s a tragic situation.”

According to Guyer, the emergency shelter with 20 beds the HRDC offers is the only one in Park County. They are only open during the winter months, but at the beginning of this winter, they almost weren't able to open because of lack of funding. Williamson and Guyer both said the Livingston community came together to make sure their town had a safe and warm space for people to go that needed it.