Foreword from Family Promise: “Thanks to Amelia Musgjerd at the Human Resource Development Council of District IX and Anna Edwards at the Bozeman School District for their words on homelessness- particularly regarding working families. Their words hit hard, as our families struggle to compete for housing, and are put on lengthy waiting lists for affordable apartments. Dinged credit scores, lower wages, poor or non-existent rental references, lack of a co-signor, and criminal histories are big hurdles for some of our families.”

From a Bozeman Daily Chronicle article posted May 25, 2016

Homelessness is on the rise in Bozeman, said speakers at a forum Tuesday night hosted by social service agency HRDC — though not necessarily the type that’s visible along stretches of North Seventh Avenue.

“Families are the fastest-growing group of homeless in the nation, and that’s certainly true here as well,” said Anna Edwards, who coordinates family-school services for the Bozeman School District.

Four years ago, Edwards said, Bozeman schools identified 56 students as homeless, their families camping out, lodged at a domestic violence shelter or bouncing between motel rooms. This year, with a growing population and tight rental market, the number is double that — 112.

When she started with HRDC’s Housing First program back in the recession, said another speaker, Amelia Musgjerd, finding apartments for her homeless clients was generally doable.

Nowadays, as the booming city has seen its vacancy rate hover at essentially zero for years on end, she said her clients have it even harder — forced to compete with students and other renters who don’t have things like mental illness, poor credit scores or criminal records working against them.

“How do we make you competitive against that person who can lay down cash in front of the landlord?” she said.

The result, Musgjerd and others said, is that homelessness rates are up — even among longtime Bozeman residents.

A survey of homeless clients in contact with HRDC and other community groups this January estimated 57 percent of homeless people in Bozeman had lived in the community for more than a year, Musgjerd said. Additionally, 26 percent had lived here for more than 10.

“The telling piece is when you’ve had that many people who’ve lived in our community for over a decade,” she said, noting that it’s awfully hard to make ends meet when you’re looking at $700 for a 1-bedroom apartment and have limited job opportunities.

It’s common, Edwards said, for schools to see students to repeatedly transfer schools as their parents struggle to keep a roof over their heads — something the school district is trying to address by being flexible about enrollment boundaries so they can keep homeless students in a consistent school.

“A lot of families are going wherever they can to find housing,” she added, saying local schools are also seeing many transfers to out-of-district.

“We forget the invisible,” Edwards said. “And a lot of times that’s our working families.”


Eric Dietrich can be reached at 406-582-2628 or He is on Twitter at @eidietrich.


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