Tuesday, December 30, 2008

20 Lifestories in 20 Sentences

I recently asked everyone at the Samaritan House to consider their life to write a sentence that summarizes their life, a one-sentence memoir.

If you listen you can hear the pain and regret from tragedy and wrong choices as well as the hope and determination of second chances. Some are written looking at the past and some are focused on future events and unfinished business.

Here are some of their one-sentence memoirs:

Tragedy I am still trying to recover from.
There have been ups and downs but God has always been watching over me.
Still trying to recover and think straight.
God has three words for my family: yes, not yet and I have better things in store for you… which is where we are right now.
Trying to recover and think straight.
Life feels like it’s passing me by but I’m keeping positive thoughts as best as possible.
Made some mistakes but I‘m trying to get things right.
I have grown and now I have true friends.
Helped by your kindness now I have a chance.
I see the love and caring of others and now His love for me.
Leave my past behind and look to my future.
Soon to be a postman.
If only I had known then what I know now.
Making positive changes and personal goals one step at a time while making sacrifices that have to be made along the way.
Honoring my past and rebuilding my future for a better year in 2009.
It is never too late to change.
I’ve had a lot of bends in my road of life, it’s getting straighter now though.
I was put here for a purpose and I’m not sure why.
Trying to put it together but everything seems to be working against me.
Got a fresh start here half way through.

What does your one-sentence memoir read like? Try not to think too much. Maybe just look at it out of the corner of your eye and go with your first instinct. Sum up your life to this point in one sentence.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Day

Pictured here in the top photo are Becky Berson and Nina Levitt, and in the lower photo are Shari Roubinek and Mona Charles. They are members of Bet Harim - the Jewish Community of Flathead Valley.
Every year they come to serve on Christmas Day. They bring dinner for the whole shelter complete with music, decorations and the whole thing.
Thank you Bet Harim for your thoughtfulness and generosity!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas to All!

(This is Karli and Shelbi Kusler, they made all the blankets in the photo as gifts for the people in the shelter.)
There are a lot of people I run into here who are having a difficult time with Christmas, both financially and emotionally.
We all know that this is a difficult year and that the economy is in a recession. It has been estimated that 1.25 million jobs have been lost in the last three months. 1 in 10 people paying a mortgage are more than 2 months behind. Locally there have been people laid off with more to come after the New Year.
Christmas holds deep meaning for people and comes with memories of childhood and family traditions this can make it a difficult time for homeless people; young families struggling to find a place and remain strong for their children; addicts and alcoholics who may have burned their bridges with family; single people surrounded by married people; depressed people, and the list goes on.
Christmas really isn't about the commercialism that we make it out to be. I have difficulty with the materialism that comes out at Christmas when it is ironically a celebration of the birth of Jesus. He loved the poor, his words were filled with truths about our responsibility to our brothers and sisters who live in poverty.
So, thank you Karli and Shelbi and the dozens of other people who have been helping the Samaritan House provide Christmas. That is a special thing and what its really about.
Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

December Raffle

The Samaritan House, the local homeless shelter, held its annual raffle drawing on December 19th. Pictured is Solomon Ray and Samaritan House Executive Director Chris Krager as Solomon draws the winning tickets. Solomon recently starred in a movie filmed here in the Flathead Valley called The Wylds. In years past, the guest celebrity has been Rob Quist, former Chief of Police Frank Garner and City of Kalispell Mayor Pam Kennedy.
The Samaritan House provides shelter and Transitional Housing for local homeless people. Each year the Samaritan House serves nearly 1,500 local homeless people. Every bed at the shelter has been full every night since 2002. The Samaritan House uses the proceeds from the benefit raffle to provide for shelter expenses, utilities, toiletries and to provide help for homeless families.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Samaritan House Staff

Last night the Samaritan House staff got together for our annual Christmas party. As you can see, it was a great time. It was nice to get away together.
I am proud of the work these folks do. Each year they help around 1,500 people who need shelter, feed around 25,000 meals and make thousands of referrals and connections to other services and supports... gracefully.
This is especially amazing when you consider that every single person that comes to them in need is usually in the midst of the storm of their life.
Thank you to all who help to make the Samaritan House possible and Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Frozen Pipes

Under the shelter thawing out the frozen pipes... -6 degrees last night.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

KOFI 1180 AM

A resident of the Samaritan House will be featured in a radio show Friday morning. The show is set to air at 8:00 am, Friday December 12th, on a local AM radio station 1180 KOFI. The station does not stream online so I realize this will only be available to local folks, unfortunately.
Wendy Ostrum Price interviewed a shelter resident, SW, conserning the Samaritan House and his life here. The program is sponsored by Flathead Electric Coop. United Way here is in full campaign swing and is using this program to get the word out about the different types of organizations that they help.
SW shares about how grateful he is to be inside and warm at this time of year. In his voice you can hear the toll that a hard life has had and the thankfulness he expresses for the Samaritan House and United Way to provide a place for him. It reminded me that there are things in my life that I take for granted.
Thank you to the United Way, Flathead Electric and SW.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Day at the Samaritan House

Thanksgiving at the Samaritan House was great! Just like any other family we all took time to share of our thankfulness. These are some of the things people said they were thankful for:

I am thankful for...

  • A happy place to stay and a bunch of other stuff that is hard to explain but always keeps me happy.

  • Sobriety and the Lord, who helps me through.

  • Having a good dinner here and being warm.

  • For strangers here to have enough heart to let me stay in the shelter so I can better my life. The staff here is great.

  • Family and friends.

  • Family and the good example my parents set for me.

  • Family, friends, my boyfriend and his girls, the opportunity to live in Northwest Montana, a roof over my head, food to eat, clothes to wear, reliable transportation...

  • The people in my life who love and accept me.

  • For being here at the shelter, thank you for being so loving and caring.

  • For the Samaritan House for taking my cousin and I in when times were hard and getting us warm clothes.

  • For the Salvation Army for giving me a temporary job.

  • For the free internet at the library so i can keep in touch with my family.

  • I am thankful for everyone who has donated food and volunteered today so that we can have a Thanksgiving when I didn't think we were going to be able to.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Much To Be Thankful For

This time of year I feel very thankful, as I am sure you do to. Samaritan House has many things to be thankful for as well. One of these things is pictured above. Every year the Samaritan House receives this shipment of new coats for the shelter residents. The coats are from the Zumiez Foundation. What a great thing to be able to offer a brand new coat to anyone who needs one, very thankful.
What are you thankful for?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veterans Day

The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans estimate that 23% of homeless population are veterans. In Montana this percentage is higher. Each year, 2.3 million to 3.5 million people experience homelessness in America. By taking 23% of that range for veterans, that would indicate there are between 529,000 and 840,000 veterans who are homeless at some time during the year.
Other statistics about homeless veterans are:
15% are pre Vietnam Era
47% are Vietnam Era
17% are post Vietnam Era
Only 25% have used VA Homeless Services
67% served three or more years
33% stationed in war zone
85% completed high school/GED compared to 56% of non-veterans
89% received Honorable Discharge
76% experience alcohol, drug, or mental health problems46% white males compared to 34% non-veterans
46% age 45 or older compared to 20% non-veterans
Service needs:
45% help finding job
37% finding housing
These are staggering numbers so let’s break it down as to how this problem exists in the Flathead Valley.
Through collaboration with the regional VA at Ft Harrison, Samaritan House is able to offer a vital connection to the specialized care that is necessary to make a positive change in some of these situations. We call it our Homeless Veterans Program.
On any given day we typically have up to ten homeless veterans at the Samaritan House and usually three or four of them are fully enrolled in our Homeless Veterans Program.
Our homeless veterans are offered a case manager, goals are set with daily follow up to monitor progress. Most are newly sober and possibly even wrestling with some sort of PTSD or mental health issue. These are all special situations that demand special answers.
Let's consider a few of the homeless veterans who were recently at the Samaritan House. Mike, who tells of being stabbed by a Vietnamese bayonet collapsing one of his lungs. Roger, who is disabled with PTSD unable to work but barely able to make it on his current disability income. James, a cancer survivor secondary to being exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam. Eric signed up and went to Desert Storm because he was “looking for a fight.” He returned to find that his wife and daughter had gone back to live with her parents. His divorce papers were served here at the shelter. I could go on.
Thank you to all veterans including those we know here at the Samaritan House for your service and your dedication to our country.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Some Things You Should Know...

Some things you should know about homelessness in the Flathead Valley:
1. Winter can be harsh at times in Montana.

While recently it has been a mild fall, last night the temperature was 22 degrees. It would be tough to try to stay outside, or even in a vehicle all night. This makes homelessness in the Flathead Valley a life or death issue on some nights.

2. Flathead Valley homelessness is on the rise.
The Flathead Valley consistently shows the third largest population of homeless people in Montana according to the Annual Homeless Survey completed every January 31st. Samaritan House is essentially at capacity every night and has been this way since 2002. In 2006, Samaritan House turned away 395 homeless people because every bed was full. In 2007, Samaritan House turned away 545 local homeless people. These numbers increase every year.

3. Homeless people in the Flathead Valley are typically dealing with more than one issue.
Causes for homelessness here are broad and varied. The high cost of housing, long waiting lists, difficulty finding a livable wage, domestic violence, relationship troubles, mental health, chemical dependency, vehicle and financial troubles can all be factors that cause homelessness. These difficulties can all be present in some combination resulting in homelessness.
A common misconception is that most people “choose” to be homeless. This is not the case.
The best response is a comprehensive approach that provides long-term solutions.

4. Montana cares for it’s homeless people.
I believe part of the spirit of Montana is to show hospitality and help a neighbor who is going through difficult times. This is the case at the Samaritan House. With dignity and respect for all, the clients of the Samaritan House receive the full benefit of the kitchen and cafeteria, case management staff, clothing and furniture donations and numerous other types of help. In any given week at the shelter there are numerous volunteers.

5. Support is needed.
While Samaritan House does receive a federal grant it is relatively small and only represents 16% of the total budget. Additionally, the state of Montana does not offer direct grant assistance for homeless programs (one of only two states in the US). Samaritan House is able to continue services only through the generosity of local businesses, churches, organizations, families and individuals. Without this type of personal support the Samaritan House would not be able to offer the comprehensive and caring type of help that it provides.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Meet Bruce

Bruce is a gentleman that we have been able to help in the shelter lately. His life has recently dealt him some difficulties but he seems to take in stride. "I had a lot of dreams years ago. Ten years later some of those came true."
Bruce, a carpenter with a bad back, is in the shelter due to a job closing down essentially because of a tough local economy. He is planning on going to help his mother for a little while and is trying to save enough money for the bus ticket.
He is the first to admit that some of the decisions he made in the past weren't the right decision. "I've gone down some good roads and some bad roads. I'm just thankful to the Samaritan House to help give me more good roads to choose from."

Friday, October 17, 2008

Meet Mike

Immediately upon meeting Mike I can tell by his heavy breathing and labored walk that he is in a lot of pain. I ask, “How you doing today Mike?”
Mike pauses and puts his bag down, “As my Dad used to say, I feel like a million bucks, wrinkled, spent and green.”
Upon further discussion I learn that Mike is a 63-year-old Vietnam veteran who receives Social Security Income and Veterans Benefits. He suffers from Bronchitis, Emphysema, Diabetes and has severe Arthritis in his neck.
Mike is at the Samaritan House because of a reduction in his benefits amount. An overpayment and consequent reduction resulted in being unable to maintain his living arrangement. The regional VA at Ft. Harrison suggested he come to the Samaritan House for shelter.
Mike tries to keep his spirits up but admits it gets tough. He recently had to give up his dog, a Border Collie named “Louie” he had for nine years. Samaritan House is helping Mike with food and shelter as well as accessing other types of benefits he might qualify for.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Flathead Community Health Center

Pictured next to myself is Sherry Stevens Wulf - Director of United Way, Dr. Chris Holdhusen - Medical Director of Flathead Community Health Center, Montana's Senator John Tester and Wendy Doely - Executive Director of Flathead Community Health Center. Senator Tester was in town to see the progress being made at the Flathead Community Health Center.
The Flathead Community Health Center is currently operating at 1035 1st Ave West in the Earl Bennet Building, the same building that the Flathead County Health Department is located in.
The third floor that is being built for the Flathead Community Health Center will be complete around April 15th.
This has already proven to be a very helpful program for the residents of the Samaritan House. FCHC operates on a sliding scale based on gross monthly income. The minimum payment for medical service is $10.
More information about FCHC can be found at their website that is accessible through the Flathead County Health Department's website at: www.flathead health.org Or you could simply click the link on this page to your left.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Check This Out

Just found an interesting article by the Flathead Beacon. I post this because it is local, and as you know I am a fan of all things Flathead. The article is about how local nonprofits should brace for harder times. There are quotes by friends and colleagues for whom I have much respect for.

It is at: http://www.flatheadbeacon.com/articles/article/nonprofit_funding_dries_up_on_federal_local_levels/5913/

Monday, October 6, 2008

Fresh Paint in the Cafeteria

On Friday, October 3rd, we painted the cafeteria with the help of this group of volunteers from the Youth With A Mission base in Lakeside. The cafeteria is at the heart of what we do at Samaritan House. The cafeteria serves nearly 24,000 meals every year and is a constant flow of activity. Thanks to all who helped to keep it looking as nice as it does. Dinner is at 6pm, you should stop by.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

A Samaritan's Prayer

(The following is an email I received from a gentleman I have deep respect for, a former Samaritan House Board member.)

Chris--I have slightly adapted this prayer someone sent to me. It reminds me of you and others who help the unfortunate every day.--Bill


My life shall touch a dozen lives
before this day is done.
Leave countless marks for good or
ill ere sets the evening sun.
This is the wish I always wish, the
prayer I always pray;
Lord, may my life help other lives
It touches by the way.

Warm Regards for your special mission.

Bill Hadly

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

How Did We Help?

At dinner last night I asked a few of the shelter residents, “What are your biggest needs and how has the Samaritan House been able to help?” This is how they answered:

“I need a job and a vehicle. Only this will take time and money. The fact that I have a place to stay and shower is very helpful. Everyone has been very kind and generous here and I am grateful.”
“I have been in need of work that I can do with my disability for several years. Since I have been at the Samaritan House my life has been better than it has been for a long time. There is still a few things I need to do. I hope and pray that my and other people in the Samaritan House lives change for the better.”
“Aside from the shelter from the elements, the room to grow stronger physically, better diet, to gain weight and to see to my medical issues ongoingly. After realizing my needs the staff helped me to accomplish them. My warmest thanks!”
“Housing, food, clothing, shower, laundry. It has been a good place for me because… my roommates are mellow guys and are easy to get along with. Now I need work so I can get the money to go home. It is better than most shelters, that’s for sure.”
“As usual. Work. The shower, to be able to do wash and laundry has really helped out. The food is good and I feel safe at night to be able to really sleep. If you’ve ever slept out, you’d know what I mean!”
“The place has been good to me, I came here to go to the Vet’s Clinic, they have given me a clean place to stay, nourishing meals, phones and mail service. On my trip here to get to the clinic I went through several other towns and shelters, this is the best one. In some of those shelters I had to sleep with my shoes on.”
“A place to call home.”

Monday, September 22, 2008

Meet Brandon

This is Brandon Lodien. He is a cook and housekeeper at the shelter. Random facts about Brandon are that he likes the Oregon Ducks, Strawberries and was run over by a motorboat this summer. (37 staples and 9 stitches.) Brandon says he enjoys the opportunity to make a real difference in people's lives at Samaritan House.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Garage Sale at the Armory

Yes, it's true. I realize that this notice may arrive a bit late for our subscribers, but I wanted to give you the heads up. When you get an old armory building you also get the old army leftover stuff. If you are looking for an old retro type army issue thing, well then his just may be the perfect garage sale for you.
When: Sept 20th from 7am on through until gone (likely 11am)
Where: 1110 2nd Street West, Kalispell (the old US Armory on Meridian Rd.)
Special bonus surprise for the first 10 people who say they heard about it on the blog.
See you there.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Meet Mark

This is Mark. Mark's story is a difficult one. He came to the Samaritan House for help. He suffers from Narcolepsy and Ceteplexy. (I hope I've spelled those correctly.) For Mark it has been difficult to work as most jobs are not flexible enough to allow someone to take intermittent rest times. His disorder led to his losing a job, his driver's license and ultimately homelessness.
Mark says that some of the things he needs are: Big & Tall size shirts and a coat (4X Tall), an affordable apartment and employment that will accomodate his need for rests.
Mark says, "Without the Samaritan House I don't know where I would be."

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Today at the Shelter

Today the shelter is full, 20 single men, 8 single women and five families. These are people who are homeless because of domestic violence, mental illness, the high price of rentals in the area, gas prices and the economy.
The Transitional Housing is full, 14 single men and women. The reasons for homelessness listed for these people are mental illness, domestice violence, layed off from work, long hospital stay resulting in eviction and difficulty finding an affordable rental.
Lately, I have been busy writing a federal grant. One freezer broke down and I also turned on the heat boilers as nights are getting cooler.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Fishes and Loaves

Each year something great happens at the shelter that I have to tell you about. The 4-H Livestock Auction at the Flathead County Fair. In the picture you can see cartloads of freshly packaged meat. This year we owe many thanks to: Alamon, 1st National Bank, Jerry and Cynthia Kennedy and Western States Insurance who each purchased a pig and donated it to the shelter. D.A. Davidson / Bob White and 1st National Bank each purchased a lamb and donated it to the shelter. We also owe thanks to Lower Valley Processing Company for donating the processing of the meat. Thank you for helping to keep the freezers full and helping us feed the homeless in the Flathead Valley.

Meet Wendy

This is Wendy Bauer, she is a PATH worker, Adult Case Manager, Homeless Resource person for Western Montana Mental Health here in Kalispell. I thought you might like to meet her because she does so much for the homeless people of the Flathead Valley.
Wendy's caseload is full of people in their greatest time of crisis. She helps them find housing, food, counseling, apply for other types of benefits that might help and get to and from important meetings like doctors and therapists appointments.
Wendy says that she enjoys the sense of accomplishment she gets from helping someone through their crisis. How great is that?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Helpful Sites

What's in your drop down window? It's almost a diagnostic question isn't it? In no particular order these are some of the helpful websites I have stumbled on. (Most are work related and some are not.)
www.boardsource.org (Helpful nonprofit info.)
www.grantstation.com (More nonprofit info. Here you can actually see the 990's of other organizations.)
www.MTCoH.org (Home to all things about Homelessness in Montana. I suggest downloading the annual report titled "Homeless in Montana")
www.discoveringmontana.com (Our state website. Here you can get tons of info about Montana. You can also access offender info. Check out the Correctional Offender Network, I think all felonies in Montana are listed.)
www.geocaching.com (A fun pastime for people with GPS units.)
www.guidestar.org (More info for the nonprofit world.)
www.ourfactsyourfuture.mt.gov (This is the collaboration of the economic geography department of Montana. It is a great way to stay in touch with the economic climate of your area.)
www.propertydisposal.gsa.gov (The government giving away unused items and properties.)
www.monsterwatchitgo.com (Here you can read several reports of sightings of the famous Flathead Lake Monster. Did I just feel something bump my foot?)
www.flatheadhealth.org (The website for the Flathead County Health Department. You can also get info about the reduced cost medical clinic there called the Flathead Community Health Center.
www.meetomatic.com (This is helpful if you are trying to wrangle a bunch of people with very different schedules to the same place at the same time.)
www.swivel.com (Fact based graphs and displays that are helpful templates to start with. Caveat though because the info is open source.)
www.shutterfly.com (Fun art projects and other stuff.)
www.hurwitassociates.com (Nonprofit Law)
http://flathead.mt.gov/gis (An interactive map of Flathead County where you can learn all kinds of info, for example, try looking up your own address. I know, scary huh?)

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Forgotten by Chuck Norris

(The following is an interesting article by Chuck Norris titled, The Forgotten. Thanks to Bill Hadly a former Samaritan House Board Member for forwarding it to me.)

This past week, the Bush administration touted that there was a 30 percent drop (from 175,914 in 2005 to 123,833 in 2007) in the number of "chronically homeless" people in the nation -- those who are unaccompanied, disabled and have been homeless for longer than one year.
I have my differences with the Bush administration, but credit needs to be given where credit is due. It is a step in the right direction that 50,000 more "chronically homeless" (of the roughly 750,000 total homeless in the U.S.) are off the streets, out of shelters and in secure environments. (Not counted here are those recently affected by the swell of foreclosures -- 739,714 filings in the second quarter of 2008 alone.)
In particular, the executive director of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, Philip Mangano, should be commended for leading communities across the country to develop plans for reducing homelessness. Also very helpful are the community outreaches by Rolling Thunder and other groups that are extending their helping hands to homeless veterans.
I'm not writing this column to propose some one-size-fits-all homeless solution. I'm writing it because I thought, even though Congress left on a five-week hiatus without helping us with our energy (gas) crisis, I want to encourage Americans not to follow suit and turn a blind eye to the needs of others around us -- even on vacation. I realize that caring for the homeless in particular can often be complicated, and we never should jeopardize our safety in doing so. But we can't allow complications or even callousness to stop our compassion. Let me give you a recent example of how my family was reminded of that.
For part of our summer vacation, we spent a few days at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, in California. One night, on the way back to our hotel, we passed three homeless men. One of them said to our 6-year-old twins, "Wait, I have something for you." Of course, our kids know not to talk or receive things from strangers. But I saw warmth in his eyes, so we walked over to him. The man said he had some coupons to ride the rides. But after rummaging through his pockets, he came up empty-handed. I thanked him for his offer, and we walked on.
Back at the hotel, our daughter, Danilee, said she would like to draw him a picture. But it was too dark and late to be running around the city looking for him. When we went to bed that night, we prayed together, and our kids prayed for him. As the kids slept, my wife, Gena, and I talked and concurred, "There was something different about this man -- this encounter."
Walking to breakfast the next morning, to our surprise, we passed the same homeless gentleman. His eyes and smile showed that he remembered us. I only wished I had encouraged Danilee to draw the picture the night before. Gena later told me she prayed silently, "Oh, Lord, give us one more chance to give him that picture."
At the restaurant, the waitress brought my kids some crayons and paper. Danilee drew two beautiful angels overlooking her and this man walking side by side. And our son, Dakota, drew three crosses. The kids asked whether we could buy him breakfast -- which we did, even though we didn't know whether we would see this sojourner again. When we looked for him, there was no sign of him anywhere. We had only one more chance to meet him in the morning before we had to leave Santa Cruz.
After breakfast the next morning, Gena noticed two men walking at a distance around a corner near a covered bus stop. As we got closer, a familiar face came into view, and we all smiled. We told him that we'd been looking for him for two days. The kids told him about the breakfast that never made it to him the day before and that now we brought him some iced tea. Then they gave him the pictures they drew. He was obviously deeply touched.
What happened last still sends shivers up my spine. Without recognizing who I was, he stuck out his hand and respectfully introduced himself, "My name is Alan." His few words nearly took our breath away because Gena's father's name was also Alan, and he also had a very similar gentle and kind demeanor, but her father had passed away six months earlier and still is missed so dearly. Just before we walked away, Dakota handed him the iced tea we brought. After he sipped it, he exclaimed: "A-a-ah, sweet tea. I love sweet tea!" To which Gena softly replied, "So did my dad." I thought, "I don't think it's a coincidence today that Santa Cruz means 'Holy Cross' in Spanish."
God spoke to us that summer day. Heaven sent a big sign through what might seem like a relatively small encounter. And it can serve as a reminder to us all -- one that's also in the Good Book: "Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it."

Monday, July 14, 2008

Best Places To Live

CNNMoney.com recently did a report on the best places to live. I fully expected to find at least a couple cities from Montana in the top 100. It seems there is a population cut off at 20,000. After the 2010 census Kalispell will qualify to get in, write it down. Nonetheless, it is interesting information, searchable by region, affordable housing, quality of life. The link is http://money.cnn.com/magazines/moneymag/bplive/2008/top100/

Friday, July 11, 2008

Now the Elevator Pump

This is me pointing into a vat of hydraulic oil in the elevator controls room. Hydraulic oil has a sincere smell to it. This week has been the week of pump motors. First the sump pump, now the elevator pump. The good news is our elevator repair man reassures me that the elevator will be operational on Monday.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Water in the Basement

One Sump Pump = $350
Knowing the shelter is a dry safe place = Priceless

Monday, June 30, 2008

Today at the Shelter

Today at the Samaritan House... (I will try to do this more often.) There are 43 in the Shelter (including 7 children), 16 in the Transitional Housing and 38 people in the apartments. All apartments and beds are full and spoken for. Some of the people we are serving include:

  • A family who worked driving long-haul trucks homeless now as a result of high gas prices. With not much for a profit margin it became more and more difficult to have a successful budget. (I think the recession is real, but that would be an entirely separate blog.)
  • A single mother with a baby in Hospice. How would you handle the end of a relationship, looking for work and the impending death of your baby?
  • A single gentleman with increasingly worse Cerebral Palsy.
  • 9 individuals or families who are victims of domestic violence.
  • 3 Homeless Veterans wrestling with lingering PTSD from. Two served in Vietnam and one served in the Gulf War.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

If Only It Were This Easy

I am not much of a photographer, but this struck me as funny...

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Two Quilts

This is Mary Ruff from Kalispell. Mary made these two quilts for the shelter. It is true that the shelter has a lot of beds. Along with having a lot of beds comes the need for a lot of blankets. It is people like Mary who help make the Samaritan House what it is today.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Going the Extra Mile

This is Tony Smith and Jennifer and Kagen Cox. They lead the Kalispell Church of Christ Youth Group. In their Sunday morning classes they discussed giving of themselves without expecting anything in return. By way of practical application, the youth group toured the Samaritan House and decided they wanted to help.
They began a recycling drive to raise money for the shelter. Over the next few months they were able to recycle anything from aluminum cans to metal car parts and tractor parts. They even wrestled a really big crane radiator that was donated.
In addition to the recycling drive the group hosted a dinner and reception May 16th for the residents of the shelter. One young lady designed and printed invitations. Two other members of the youth group who are in Orchestra at school put together a small ensemble to play music for the evenings entertainment. Shelter residents were treated to a fine meal, homemade dessert and live music.
The result of their effort was $803 raised to help the Samaritan House in our efforts to feed the homeless. Going the extra mile and giving without expecting anything in return.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Father's Day

The following question was asked of everyone in the shelter by way of an anonymous survey, “What was your father like?” Some of the responses are listed as follows:
- “He was a good man. He worked hard for a living. He had five kids and we always had a roof over our heads and food on the table.”
- “My Dad was a big loser. He drank and gambled. One good thing was that he always helped me when I asked.”
- “My father was very compassionate and always cared about my feelings. He spent time with us and took us camping and to the movies etc. He was a good provider and I never went without the necessities.”
- “My father was abusive when I was younger. He passed away. I don’t have anything else to say about that.”
- “He was a very hard working man. I believe he found God and was forgiven of his sins.”
- “He was a crusty curmudgeon and that was also his nickname, Crusty Curmudgeon.”
- “He was an honorable, honest and compassionate man.”
- “I never knew my father.”
- “My father was a hard working man. He was a contractor who kept a roof over our heads and food on the table. He died young.”
- “He was strong and supportive. He taught me a trade and then betrayed me. I don’t talk to him any more and I haven’t for years.”
- “My father is very cool. He loves to make fun out of every situation that he is in. I love my father, he helps me even though I do not live with him any more.”
- “He was a good man and a hard worker who loved his family. I just wish I would have had the chance to know him sooner.”

So what was your father like? As you can see from the answers above, at the shelter the responses are about 50/50. The good answers say their father was hardworking, compassionate and a good provider. The tougher responses review their dad as a loser, abusive and even not present.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Time for Some Much Needed Yard Work

Tommorow, June 7th we will be meeting at the Armory building at 9:30 am to prune the hedges and pull weeds... it shouldn't take long and might be kind of fun. The address is 1110 2nd Street West in Kalispell.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


Let's just talk about today. Today is a rainy day in the Flathead, the sort of day that is best served with a warm cup of coffee and your shoes off. The hallways are full of sounds of families and children. The phones are busy, doors opening and closing and the staff is full tilt in the business of helping the homeless.

Today there are 36 people in the shelter. This includes single gentlemen that have been homeless a long time as well as young families with children that are homeless for an unforseen reason. There are life stories ranging from illness, domestic violence and financial hardship. These include children in the families ranging from 3 months old to 16 years old.

Today there are also 67 people in the other housing here. These people are working to get on their feet, maintain a budget, increase income and meet other goals they have set. Most of these families have very slim margins for success.

This makes a total of 103 people on the campus today that are homeless or were very recently homeless.

I have received calls already today from Lamplighter Adult Mental Health, Adult Protective Services, Brendan House (the local long term nursing care home) and Neighbors in Need (the local clearing house for all types of assistance).

In the mail today I received award notice for a $1,500 grant as well as some donations from a local business and a family that routinely supports the shelter.

Today I have a meeting with a gentleman who is working to get the Samaritan House staff medical insurance, something I feel that in good responsibility all employers should at least be trying to do.

There is a leak in a pipe in the boiler room, the plumber reassures me he will be here by noon. This reminds me, I need to go empty the drip bucket.

There are three volunteers here today, as well as people stopping by to donate clothing and household items.

Today is a pretty typical day at the shelter.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Armory Update

I haven't updated about the new building lately. The press release was sent out several weeks ago by the Government Services Administration in Fort Worth, Texas. Since then we have been waiting for the deed and keys to the property. We have not been given the official "go ahead" to get in there yet. I did speak with Government Services Administration in Texas as well as the Property Disposal Branch in Washington D.C. to inquire of any updates. Both departments relayed that it may be one or two weeks before we can take possession.

Thank you to all who have kept this in your thoughts and prayers. The goal is to provide better services and care for the people we serve.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Success Story - Mr. Gene Kelch

I’d like you to meet Gene Kelch. Gene stopped by the shelter today to bring in some clothing donations. A success story of the Samaritan House, his story is one that is somewhat typical of the people we serve.
Gene has lived in Northwest Montana since 1946, he says, “It was a hard working life growing up in the Flathead Valley.” He quit school in the eighth grade as soon as he was able to get a job. He got his first job working at the bowling alley in Whitefish as a pinsetter. At age ten he began working in the woods, “As soon as I could hold a chain saw.”
Gene spent his career working for the US Forest Service and Plum Creek. Along the way he was part of the Montana National Guard for seven years.
Gene fondly recalls shooting his first elk in the Bob Marshall Wilderness as a teenager. “I hit it right between the eyes at 100 yards, it was a 3 or 4 mile pack job to get it back to camp.” He lectures me about the importance of a good rifle and praises his .30-40 Krag, “That rifle is worth its weight in gold. I still have it.”
Gene came to the Samaritan House in 200. At the heart of his homelessness issue is the struggle to maintain a budget on his Social Security retirement check. Gene had just retired from working at Plum Creek. He stated that he would have liked to continue working there but was unable to keep up with the physical demands of the job. With no savings Gene wound up homeless.
Samaritan House helped Gene initially with shelter, applying for other work and ultimately with assistance completing applications for other mainstream resources. Gene worked at McDonalds during this transition and is again retired.
Gene receives a monthly Social Security check in the amount of $679. Gene’s monthly bills are: $150 for rent, $20 for “an old doctor bill”, $15 to Best Buy and $3.79 each month for “AARP insurance.” That leaves the rest for groceries, gas and other expenses.
Gene is glad that his vehicle is now paid off though he bemoans the price of gas, “I just paid $3.53 per gallon down at Smith’s.” He says he spends, “around $20 every other week or so.” for gas.
“To make it work I have to mind my P’s and Q’s and do things that don’t cost so much.” Gene says for fun he likes to do things with his grandchildren and go fishing and camping. He also enjoys feeding the squirrels around his neighborhood.
“I am very thankful to the Samaritan House for the help I got. Without the Samaritan House I don’t know where I would’ve been.”

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Leaders of Tomorrow

Yesterday at the Samaritan House this group of volunteers painted the hallways. Leaders of Tomorrow is a group of leadership-type students from all of the area high schools. You have to be nominated to the group, involvement with the program is a year-long commitment. What a great bunch. With great enthusiasm they painted a couple hallways, cleaned the linen room and parking lot. I think they are also leading today.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Knock Your Socks Off Service

Today the Samaritan House had it's socks knocked off by Cellular One, a local wireless phone provider. Cellular One is letting people know about their "Knock Your Socks Off Service." Not only did they make this monetary donation they also donated hundreds and hundreds of pairs of socks to the shelter.
Andy Murphy, shown in the picture on the right, is the area manager for the company and has shown to care for the Flathead Valley and the Samaritan House. Thanks Andy and Cellular One!

Monday, April 28, 2008

What A Great Night!

The Rob Quist & the Great Northern Cowboy Up for the Samaritan House Concert & Auction was a great success! Highlights from the evening included Rob spontaneously offering to play a private mini-concert to the highest bidder! All in all Samaritan House was able to meet fundraising goals, we heard some great music by Rob Quist, people got some good deals, fun was had and more importantly we were able to provide for the homeless of the Flathead Valley. Thank You to all who pitched in, volunteered and donated. Stay tuned to see the Samaritan House video from the event.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Rob Quist & the Great Northern "Cowboy Up for the Samaritan House"

Saturday, April 26th at Easthaven Baptist Church. Doors open at 6:30 pm and the music starts at 7:30 pm. There will be a live auction at 8:30pm. Featured in the auction are items including a boat, a kayak, artwork, trips, Cat/Griz tickets and so much more.
Put your boots on and Cowboy Up for the Samaritan House!
Some of the items in the auction are:
4th of July Package
Fireworks! Fireworks! Fireworks!
Fire extinguisher
Supplies for a picnic outing
$100 Schwann’s
Archery Package
1yr family membership to Spirit Quest Archery
Archery target
$75 certificate to Montana Taxidermist
All About the Auto Package
Car detail from Oh’s Body Shop
2 windshield chip repairs from Autoglass
Moto pack bag
Road emergency kit
Bobcat / Grizzley Football Package
2 tickets to the Bobcat / Grizzley football game
Autographed Grizzley helmet
Train to Essex Package
2 train tickets from Whitefish, MT to Essex, MT
1 night lodging in Essex
Experience Bigfork Package
1 night lodging at the Bridge Street Cottages
Bottle of wine
Dinner for two at Showtime
Breakfast for two at Grateful Bread
Shopping downtown
Eva Gates - $25.00 certificate
S.M. Bradford Co. - $25.00 certificate
Merry Gems - $25.00 certificate
Let’s Go Fishing Package
Pontoon boat from Sportsman Ski Haus
Fishing pole from Snappy’s
Keg of beer from Fun Beverage
Jerky from Montana Jerky Company
Get to Know Glacier Package
Witsend Cabin – 2 nights for 4 adults
Bottle of wine
Boat cruise for 4 adults
Half day raft trip for 4 adults – Glacier Raft Co.
Glacier Grill - $20.00 certificate
Golf Them All Package
2 rounds of golf with a cart
Big Mountain, Buffalo Hill, Village Greens
Meadow Lake, Whitefish Lake
Home Improvement Package
8 hours labor – drywall / paint (Amazing Painting)
20 gallons of paint from Sherwann Williams
Lilenthal Insulation - $50.00 certificate
Landscape Time Package
7 foot blue spruce tree
50 landscape timbers
Lesson with Alice Ritzman Package
1 lesson with Alice Ritzman
Golf club / balls
Autographed item from David Graham
Pig Roast Package
Pigroast for 75 / 100 people at Vista Linda
Individual Auction Items - Art
Allan Jimmerson
Name of art
Eric Thorsen Gallery
Mini sleeping bear bronze
First Interstate Bank Whitefish
Whitefish train station
Glacier Quilts / Mary Rice
Double size, western quilt
Glacier Quilts / Mary Rice
Queen size, ducks limited quilt
Mark Ogle
Heaven’s Peak
Nancy Codry / Glacier Framing
Signed “Life in the River”
Individual Auction Items -
Antique coke machine
Jon Dahlberg - drift boat
Melby’s – 5x7 rug
Plum Creek- CDF plywood unit
Rocky Mountain Outfitter - kayak
Samaritan House / Rob Quist – guitar & CD’s
Wrights Furniture – Rug

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Flathead Community Health Center

This picture was taken a couple weeks back. It is Montana's Governor Schweitzer and some of the people involved in starting the new Flathead Community Health Center. We were awarded almost $2.2 million for FCHC.
I feel strongly about the need for more affordable healthcare. My feelings come both from personal experience and from seeing how the medical bills of shelter clients have led to further financial hardship and homelessness.
In his comments during the awards ceremony, Gov. Schweitzer stated that Flathead Valley has plenty of "who are's", meaning people with title and possessions. Then he mentioned that there are also people here "who aint's". This is who we serve.
Flathead Community Health Center is at 1035 First Avenue West in Kalispell. It is in the Earl Bennett building. It is a reduced cost/sliding fee health center featuring the work of Chris Holdhusen M.D. and Ginny Lewis F.N.P. Payment is based in your income. FCHC phone number is 751-8113. Call for an appointment. Their website is www.flatheadhealth.org

Monday, April 14, 2008

Samaritan House Outreach Program Featured in April 13th Daily InterLake

Check out this link to the article as it is written below.

Signs of the times: Are they for real?

Posted: Sunday, Apr 13, 2008 - 09:20:16 am MDT

(SAMARITAN HOUSE Director Chris Krager invites Michael Jordan, a homeless man begging for money near Wal-Mart in Kalispell on Wednesday, to stay the night at the Samaritan House. Jordan refused Krager’s offer and said, “I like sleeping under the bridge.” Krager said he is out of work due to a bad back, which he injured while serving in the United States Army from 1976 to 1982. A homeless man, known as “Joe,” right, gathers his belongings after accepting Krager’s offer to spend the night indoors. Garrett Cheen/Daily Inter Lake)
The Daily Inter LakeHomeless solicitors often want quick cash, not help.
Even though Chris Krager spends his days working with the Flathead Valley’s homeless population, he still feels conflicted when he encounters a person holding a cardboard sign.
Like many other people, the executive director of the Samaritan House wants to help but wonders if the sign-holder is truly in need.
“When you see a sign-holder, everybody has — if they have any conscience — a mental struggle, wanting to help but not wanting to help in the wrong way,” he said.
Krager wondered what motivates people to stand on a corner or median with a sign. In 2007, he surveyed 68 sign-holders to find out why they chose to ask for help that way.
He asked other organizations and individuals to call him whenever they spotted a sign-holder. The only criterion was that the person had to be holding a sign asking for help, he said. He limited his response area to the north end of the valley.
He received calls throughout the day but never later than 6 p.m. Calls came in streaks, he said. Sometimes a week or two elapsed between sign-holders.
“Summer days and the days right after a holiday seemed to be especially quiet,” he said. “This could also be the times that my callers were not available.”
Nearly every time Krager got a call, he dropped what he was doing and went to meet the sign-holder. Sometimes that meant leaving work. At other times, he left from home.
His average response time was 45 minutes. The few times Krager couldn’t make it, a trained Samaritan House caseworker did the outreach.
His routine was the time nearly every time, he said. First he introduced himself by his first name and shook hands.
“I then simply asked, ‘How are you doing?’” he said. “This naturally led the person into telling part of their story.”
Their signs often indicated why they were there. Some simply said “Need Help” or “Fallen on Hard Times.”
Others were more specific: “Vehicle Problems, Anything Helps,” “Out of Money, Anything Helps,” or “Veteran, Need Help.”
His favorite sign read, “Ugly, Broke and Sober — Will Work.”
Once he learned a little about each person’s history, Krager introduced himself as the director of the valley’s only homeless shelter. He offered shelter, meals and help finding a job. He also handed out business cards from United Way and Flathead Food Bank and gave the person the phone numbers for Help Net and Neighbors in Need.
“Ultimately I would offer to pay the sign-holder $50, let them do laundry and feed them lunch,” he said. “And in return, they would have to sweep and mop the shelter, a job that takes probably three hours. When all of this was complete, if they decided not to stay at the shelter, I would give them a ride back to the place I had picked them up.”
Fifteen sign-holders took him up on his offer, Krager said.
“Samaritan House was able to help those 15 sign-holders in a major, life-changing way, seeing them through to self-sufficiency,” he said.
About half the people he talked to “declined any offer of help other than cash and ultimately refused any attempt to make them self-sufficient,” Krager said.
Local farmers and ranchers constantly call Samaritan House in search of day laborers; in recent years, it has become nearly impossible for them to fill their crews because of the valley’s abundance of job openings.
Krager told the Inter Lake in October that about 30 people he spoke to weren’t interested in working even just one day on a farm. They simply wanted whatever cash their signs might bring.
About a quarter of the sign-holders were gone by the time Krager arrived. He doesn’t know how many of them are duplicates and did not include them in his survey results.
All the sign-holders were outside Kalispell city limits, he said. One man told Krager that a police officer had driven him outside city limits because holding a sign inside the city was illegal.
Most sign-holders Krager met were men; only 7 percent were women.
One woman held a sign that read, “Husband Hurt Back, Need Help.” She told Krager her family wasn’t homeless, but made too much money for public assistance programs and didn’t qualify for any disability programs.
“She presented a difficult scenario of miserable limbo between being able to make it and qualifying for programs,” Krager said.
Just 9 percent of the people Krager talked to said they were part of a family. All but a few said they were locals; out-of-town sign-holders were more common during the summer.
“In fact, on a few occasions during those warmer months, I was told, ‘This is just a passing-through-town kind of thing,’” Krager said.
While talking with sign-holders, he watched kindhearted passersby give them money, groceries, coffee, dog food and phone numbers, he said. While he appreciates the compassion that moves people to help, Krager said giving money isn’t always the right thing to do.
“I feel that giving money to a sign-holder is not always the best way to help them achieve success,” he said.
He recommends people call Samaritan House when they encounter someone with a sign. When the call comes in, Krager or another qualified caseworker will reach out to the sign-holder as soon as possible, he said.
“At Samaritan House, we create an environment to identify and conquer the situations that led to the problem in the first place,” he said. “It takes more time and isn’t as easy as giving five bucks, but empowering people to take control of their lives and have success is worth all the time and effort.”
Samaritan House can be reached at 257-5801.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Out of Reach 2007-2008

(The following article is from the National Alliance to End Homelessness. Check out the link to their report, Out of Reach 2007-2008. It has great info. It shows Montana's Housing Wage cited as $12.05.)
This week, the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) released Out of Reach, their annual report on the affordability and availability of housing at the national, state, and local level. The report's primary measure of housing affordability is the Housing Wage, which is the hourly wage a worker must earn to afford a two-bedroom apartment in their community. Since the release of Out of Reach 2006 in December 2006, NLIHC found that the housing wage has increased 36 percent from $16.31 to $17.32. This is higher than the national average hourly wage of $16 for all workers and well above the average hourly wage of $13.94 for all renters. The report also finds that in 2008 there was no jurisdiction in the country where a full-time worker earning minimum wage could afford a one-bedroom apartment.
Additionally, Out of Reach provides side-by- side comparisons of rents and wages for each state, metropolitan area, and combined non-metropolitan area in the United States. For each region the report provides the housing wage for a 0, 1, 2, 3, and 4 bedroom housing unit. The states with the highest housing wages are Hawaii ($29.02), DC ($25.46), and California ($24.01). The lowest housing wages are found in South Dakota ($11.19), West Virginia ($10.85), and North Dakota ($10.40).

What's the Deal With Cardboard Sign Holders?

Seeing more people in the area “flying” a sign, as they say, made me want to study this scenario a little more. I wanted to know what was the true motivation for holding a sign. What do the people need and why do they think that holding a sign is the best way to get it? Is giving money to the sign holder a good idea or will it just prolong his or her problem and aid someone’s alcohol, drug or cigarette problem? I also wanted to know if the people holding signs were just simply not aware of the services available in this area? I have an internal struggle when I see a person on the street corner holding a sign asking for money. I want to help, but I worry that helping that person with cash may be the wrong thing to do. I think most people have those same thoughts. I have heard stories of sign holders doing pretty well for themselves almost making it a career. On the other hand, some of the sign holders I have seen were truly in need.

I knew that in order to conduct this study I would need to have pretty clear parameters to get results that could be looked at without bias. I determined to use 2007 to document in a fair and accurate manner as many interactions with sign holders as possible. All results are unduplicated however if I outreached the same sign holder more than once I would offer the same help as I previously had without counting them in the study again. I limited my response area to the north end of Flathead Valley and I kept track of my response times. The only specific criterion for the study was that the person had to be holding a sign asking for help. I spread the word to other United Way organizations and services as possible asking if anyone sees a sign holder call me.

I received calls from Eagle Transit (the local bus transportation service), Kalispell Taxi, United Way, Flathead Job Service, Flathead Food Bank, local pastors, business people and a few I happened across while running errands in town. Calls came at all times of the day but never later than 6:00 pm. I noticed that calls came in streaks. At times there were one or two weeks without any sign holders. Summer days and the days right after a holiday seemed to be especially quiet. This could also be times that my callers were not available.

My process for interacting with the person holding the sign remained nearly the same every time. First I introduced myself by first name and shook hands. This brought the person to ease knowing that my intentions were good. I then simply asked, “How are you doing?” This naturally led the person into telling part of their story. Then I would introduce myself as the director of Samaritan House and offer shelter, meals, job search help, help accessing other programs and benefits etc… I always had Samaritan House business cards with me as well as business cards from United Way, Flathead Food Bank and the phone number for HelpNet/Neighbors In Need. Ultimately I would offer to pay the sign holder $50, let them do laundry and feed them lunch and in return they would have to sweep and mop the shelter, a job that takes probably three hours when all of this was complete if they decided not to stay at the shelter I would give them a ride back to the place I had picked them up.

In tracking my response time I averaged 45 minutes from initial call to arriving at the location the caller relayed. I was personally able to provide the outreach to all of the sign holders with the exception of a couple of occasions when a trained case manager provided the outreach service. Still with a response time that averaged 45 minutes, 26% of the sign holders were gone when I arrived.

The locations the sign holders were met were all outside of Kalispell city limits. One sign holder even relayed that he was given a ride there via a local police officer after he was told that it was illegal to hold a sign in the city limits. Upon further discussion I learned that this police officer scolded him about his alcohol use and offered to bring him to the Samaritan House, he was not interested. .

Most of the sign holders I outreached were male. 7% of sign holders I outreached were female. 9% claimed to be part of a family. All sign holders claimed to be from the area with the exception of the months of July, August and September. In fact on a few occasions during those warmer months I was told, “This is a just passing through town kind of thing.”

It is interesting to note that on some occasions sign holders would stand on the median of an entrance to a parking lot or store. Upon further conversation it was pointed out that this was in order to reach traffic both coming and going. I did not have any success with sign holders who used the median.

The signs stated everything from “Fallen on Hard Times” to “Vehicle Problems, Anything Helps”. Some signs I documented stated, “Husband Hurt Back, Need Help”, “ Out of Money, Anything Helps”, “Veteran, Need Help”, “Need a Miracle, Anything Helps”, “Need Work”, or my 2007 favorite “Ugly, Broke and Sober- Will Work”. Common sign themes were “Need Help” and “God Bless” I suppose this to be a more effective tool. I also noticed a few dogs accompanying sign holders.

“Need Work” did not hold his sign very long at all. In fact, he had with him a bag a carpentry tools.

“Husband Hurt Back” relayed that her family did have housing but made too much money for public assistance programs and were not qualified for any sort of disability program. She presented a difficult scenario of miserable limbo between being able to make it and qualifying for programs.

While outreaching sign holders I observed them receiving money, groceries, coffee, dog food and phone numbers from kind strangers passing by.

As a result of this yearlong study I spoke with 68 people on the street corner holding signs in 2007. As I mentioned earlier 18 sign holders or 26% were gone when I arrived. In all fairness, because they were gone I do not know if these 18 were people I had previously outreached or not. In my efforts to total unduplicated numbers I should not include these. 35 sign holders or 51% declined any offer of help other than cash and ultimately refused any attempt to make them self sufficient. And finally, 15 sign holders or 22% got in my vehicle or were able to drive themselves to the shelter. Samaritan House was able to help those 15 sign holders in a major life changing way, seeing them through to self-sufficiency.

So what should you do when you see a sign holder?

Based on these results and in good responsibility I feel that giving money to a sign holder is not always the best way to help them achieve success. At Samaritan House we create an environment to identify and conquer the situations that led to the problem in the first place. It takes more time and isn’t as easy as giving five bucks but empowering people to take control of their lives and have success is worth all of the time and effort.

If you see a sign holder and feel led to help them you can give Samaritan House a call at 257-5801 and a qualified case manager or myself will outreach them as soon as possible. Together we can guide people that truly want help down a road that will lead to hope, success and restored self-esteem. Samaritan House sincerely thanks this kind and generous community that gives faithfully to us so that we can continue to give our fellow citizens a hand up.

Thank you for supporting your local homeless shelter.
Chris Krager

Monday, April 7, 2008

Rob Quist & Great Northern Concert & Auction

April 26th Rob Quist & the Great Northern will be playing a concert for the Samaritan House at Easthaven Baptist Church on Whitefish Stage Rd.. There will also be a Live & Silent Auction featuring vehicles, boats, artwork, trips and much more...
The Missoulian named Rob one of the Premiere Montana Musicians of the 20th Century and he was just recently inducted into the University of Montana’s Fine Arts Department Hall of Fame. He was saluted as “a celebrated Montana musician and composer who has captured the spirit of the West in his music, an evocative and versatile artist whose gift of song has touched the hearts and souls of his countrymen, an eloquent proponent of the history and beauty of the West whose legacy in song will be embraced by generations to follow.”
Doors open at 6:30 pm the music starts at 7:30 pm. So come out, hear Rob Quist and support the Samaritan House. Put your boots on and cowboy up for the Samaritan House!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Unexpectedly Disoriented

˙ssǝlǝɯoɥ ʎlpǝʇɔǝdxǝun ǝɯoɔǝq oʇ ǝʞıl ǝq plnoʍ ʇı ʇɐɥʍ ɟo ǝɔıls llɐɯs ɐ puɐʇsɹǝpun noʎ dlǝɥ llıʍ noʎ pǝsnɐɔ ǝʌɐɥ ı uoıʇɐʇuǝıɹosıp ǝɥʇ ʇɐɥʇ ǝdoɥ ı ˙ɥʇıʍ ʞɐǝds oʇ ʇǝƃ ı ʇɐɥʇ sǝılıɯɐɟ puɐ slɐnpıʌıpuı ssǝlǝɯoɥ ǝɥʇ ɹoɟ ǝsɐɔ ǝɥʇ sı ɥɔns ˙uʍop ǝpısdn pǝuɹnʇ ʎlpǝʇɔǝdxǝun sı ƃuıɥʇʎɹǝʌǝ ǝɟıl uı sǝɯıʇǝɯos 'sıɥʇ sı ʇuıod ǝɥʇ ˙sı ǝɹǝɥʇ sǝʎ "˙sıɥʇ oʇ ʇuıod ɐ sı ǝɹǝɥʇ ǝdoɥ ı" 'ƃuıʞuıɥʇ ʎlqɐqoɹd oslɐ ǝɹɐ noʎ ¡suoıʇɐlnʇɐɹƃuoɔ 'ɹɐɟ sıɥʇ uǝʇʇoƃ ǝʌɐɥ noʎ ɟı ˙uʍop ǝpısdn ƃuıɥʇǝɯos pɐǝɹ puɐ ɹǝʇndɯoɔ ɹnoʎ ʇɐ ʇɐs ɹǝʌǝu ʎlqɐqoɹd ǝʌɐɥ noʎ 'puɐʇsɹǝpun ı 'sǝʎ

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Annual Progress Report

The picture above will explain the absence of an update lately. The Annual Progress Report, "2006(done in 2007)" and "2007(done in 2008)", is the compilation of numbers of people served, money spent, services offered, budget efficiency and outcomes measured. This report gets sent to Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as a way to monitor the grant funding we receive from them each year.
I don't like doing these reports. It is difficult and there is little acknowledgement of feelings and emotion. It boils things down too far. It is important to remember that every number and tally mark represents a person. Every dollar shown is hard earned. Every life changed is major.
The highlights for last year are that we served more people in the Shelter and also in the Transitional Housing. We actually lengthened our average length of stay. We were able to offer more types of services than ever before and showed better percentages of success in outcomes.
Twelve months from today I will have to send off another Annual Progress Report, "2008(done in 2009)", I better get started.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Poll Results:Struggle for Affordable Housing Continues

Americans Say Housing Issues Will Affect How They Vote
A poll released February 29th, by the Housing America Campaign indicates that nine out of ten Americans believe the provision of affordable housing is an important issue in their community; nearly two-fifths cite having a decent affordable place to live as their top priority. This represents an increase in responses of this kind to the same question asked last year. The poll also shows that affordable housing will affect the way Americans vote. Seventy-four percent said that presidential candidates' ideas for providing more affordable housing were important in determining for whom they would vote. Additionally, almost one-fifth of respondents reported being "directly affected" by the recent mortgage crisis. On a more positive note, the percentage of Americans who believe housing policy is on the right track increased slightly from last year's results.
For full poll results, visit www.nahro.org/pressroom/2008/poll.pdf.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

A Room Full of Heros

This group of people volunteer at the Samaritan House regularly by serving on the Board of Directors. They are: (left to right) Dave Rice, Jim Ness, Terra Treweek, Shelly Jeffries, Jon Dahlberg, Jim Galvin, Tom Nelesen, Bob Donahue and Mary Grace Galvin. These are just some of the people who help address homelessness in the Flathead Valley. Not pictured are Pat LaVoie, Tory Graham, Winnie Simmons, Dave Maurer and Heidi Valentine. If you see one of these fine folks around town ask them how you can help them. They have a big task in front of them.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Samaritan House Gets Former Armory

Below is an article printed in today's edition of the local newspaper The Daily InterLake

Samaritan House is the winner of the Sonstelie Hall lottery.
For the last few years, local agencies and organizations have eyed the former Sonstelie Hall Army Reserve Center near Peterson School on Second Street West in Kalispell.
Flathead County Agency on Aging hoped to relocate from its cramped facility on Kelly Road to the more spacious Army Reserve building.
Kalispell Public Schools hoped to move its centralized elementary support kitchen there and possibly using some space for additional kindergarten and early childhood classrooms.
Instead, the U.S. General Services Administration assigned the building to the Flathead Valley’s only homeless shelter.
“I feel bittersweet,” said Chris Krager, Samaritan House’s executive director. “I know a lot of people had an interest in the building.”
Samaritan House was able to acquire the property because homeless-assistance programs are given priority over other programs, he said.
“My application was given a priority consideration,” he said. “There must be a reason that the government put a homeless priority in there.”
Samaritan House will use the 12,327-square-foot main building primarily as office space. Krager’s office, as well as the accounting and case management offices, will move into the building, which has been empty since 2003.
There won’t be any beds at the new site, Krager said, but when the offices move from Samaritan House’s current building on Ninth Avenue West, the shelter will be able to serve more people.
In 2007, Krager had to turn away 545 people because Samaritan House was full.
“That’s why I applied for the property,” he said.
Moving the offices will allow the shelter to accommodate an additional 60 people annually. About 1,500 people stay at Samaritan House each year.
“It doesn’t make a huge impact,” Krager admitted. “But it does make some positive impact.
“That is 10 people at any point in time that will get help by nature of us having this extra building.”
Better still, Samaritan House gets the property for free. Federal law says underutilized, unused, excess or surplus real estate may be made available at no cost to homeless providers.
“The essence of it is with an increased demand for homeless services and increased numbers of homeless people, and the weight of our budget and trying to make ends meet, it feels really, really refreshing to get something for free,” Krager said.
Samaritan House will have a 30-year deed, he said. During that time, the shelter must use some part of the property to serve homeless people.
When the 30 years are up, the property belongs to Samaritan House to use as the organization deems best.
The building may need some minor repairs, Krager said, but except for years of accumulated dust, it’s ready for new occupants. Samaritan House’s existing facility will need some construction, he said. Staff will remain the same.
Krager hasn’t yet received the key or the deed. As soon as he has those, he has one year to move in.
“It’s going to be a slow process,” he said.
The Army Reserve building is Montana’s latest government property handled by the General Services Administration, the largest public real estate organization in the country. It also handled an armory-turned-homeless-shelter in Bozeman and the former Air Force base in Lakeside, which now houses a Youth With a Mission base.

Sunday, February 24, 2008


This is the Christian Center Youth Group Core Leadership Team. They were ambushed by their Youth Pastor, Jason Bishop (in the middle). They were told only that they were "Going on a field trip." Without hesitation they cleaned the parkinglot, sidewalks, food pantry room and moved a huge old freezer up from the basement (pictures below). It would have taken Samaritan House staff and I a few hours to do what these guys did in just a half hour. Not to mention the ibuprofen I would have needed after wrestling with that freezer.

Pastor Jason is a man who has a heart for the lost and empathy for local homeless people. How refreshing to see these guys show up not even knowing they were coming here and just dive right in and do stuff. James chapter 2 talks about faith in action and instructs us to love others as we love ourselves. .......These guys get it.