Homeword uses sustainable methods to provide safe, healthy homes people can afford and strengthens community through housing counseling and education for those in need.

Building Healthy Places, Hearts and Minds

  • posted by Andrea Davis
  • Featured Posts
Building Healthy Places, Hearts and Minds

Thank you for helping us strengthen Montana Communities over the past 25 years! Our journey began with women and families expressing their need for homes they could afford, built to live lightly on the earth. And for empowering those living with lower wages, some while raising children, all with the goal of obtaining a good life.  

We started as a program in Missoula with one staff person. Now we are a statewide organization with 12 dedicated team members and a $1 million operating budget. You’ve helped us create more than 1,100 homes in 11 communities where 2,000 people, including 622 children, sleep each night. You’ve also helped empower 15,500 people through homebuyer education and financial skill building. Wow! And thank you!

Our 25-year timeline shows our strategies have changed, yet the importance of empowering our neighbors has not. The pressure on our neighbors and demand for our work continues to grow. Thanks to you, we’ve been at the table, helping lead the conversation to find solutions that strengthen our communities. You help us undertake innovative projects and programs that build healthy places, hearts and minds.

Homeword persistently elevates the conversation about the challenges created by high costs of living and the benefits of people being able to afford their homes. Now more than ever, people recognize that the ability to afford a home and other costs of living is essential to the health and stability of our communities.

That said, collectively we all have much to do to ensure policymakers and those with financial influence embrace policies and initiatives that create equitable opportunities for all. Homeword was happy to contribute our time and expertise to help the City of Missoula develop A Place to Call Home, Missoula’s first housing policy. We were also pleased to help launch the Missoula Home Coalition, a group of organizations and citizens advocating for policies and initiatives to meet the diverse home needs of all Missoulians. And we will continue to help lead the efforts of the Montana Housing Coalition, striving for a cohesive home creation policy in Montana.

The Montana Housing Coalition’s efforts led to the successful passage of House Bill 16 in the 2019 Legislature. This Bill marked the first time state dollars are available to create homes Montanans can afford to rent. This new program makes available $15 million of Coal Trust Tax Fund dollars in the form of low interest loans. Montana Housing recently approved loans totaling $3.5 million for four projects, including one for workforce rentals as well as the preservation of existing homes that seniors with low-fixed incomes can afford to rent.

Home costs that fit within people’s budgets give them greater financial stability. When Montanans can afford safe homes and make wise financial decisions, they are healthier and our communities are stronger.

Homes for first time homebuyers or seniors downsizing are simply not available – there is a “missing middle” of diverse home types. Our Missoula Montana Street Homes were six small homes for sale through the Community Land Trust model designed to help address this challenge. We hope to create more homeownership opportunities through innovative partnerships in the future.

Rental homes Montanans can afford are also important. You’re helping make these homes possible! We acquired Hearthstone Apartments, aging HUD-funded homes in Anaconda that are 74 safe, healthy homes seniors aging in place and/or those with disabilities can afford. Construction of Starner Gardens in Billings in partnership with GMD Development is nearly complete. People are already moving into these 136 new senior homes. Partnering with Human Resource Development Council IX, we’re repurposing the former hospital in Livingston into 37 greatly needed apartments. And, partnering with the Whitefish Housing Authority, we’re building Alpenglow Apartments in Whitefish to create 38 critically needed homes the workforce can afford.

Preventing homelessness or ensuring it’s rare, brief and a one-time only experience requires multiple strategies. One is a landlord liaison, leading community-wide efforts to market Missoula home support programs to landlords and property managers to expand the number of homes available to people with barriers to renting. We’re piloting this initiative that’s financially supported by Missoula County. Another strategy is the Trinity Apartments, a collaboration between Homeword, the Missoula Housing Authority and BlueLine Development with support from the City and County of Missoula. 200-homes will be on two sites, a mile apart. 70 homes will be located on the Cooley block and 130 on a four-acre parcel on Mullan Road donated by the County. The Mullan site will include 30 homes with rental assistance for our long-term unhomed neighbors and a navigation center with intensive supportive services. The Trinity partnership addresses several community goals, building on the momentum of Missoula’s 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness, the Missoula County Jail Diversion Master Plan and A Place to Call Home.

Thanks to you, our HomeOwnership Center in Missoula is thriving, with our education and counseling services in high demand. These include navigating the homebuying process, improving credit scores, creating plans to reduce debt and empowering people to be successful renters. Our classes, workshops and counseling go beyond providing learned hard skills. Our counselors are here for people at pivotal points in their lives. They create lasting impact by developing relationships with people who are then empowered to better their lives.

We face challenges from limited funding programs and ever-growing demand. Last month, we empowered 105 people through two homebuyer classes plus pre-purchase counseling while working to close a $60,000 annual gap in program support. Our services are available at little or no cost, including free childcare so parents can attend classes. When we have the funding to cover program costs, more of our funds can be used to create additional homes Montanans can afford.

Through policy work at the federal, state and local levels we are working to maintain vital programs that make all this work possible. With you by our side, we can continue to be part of the solution.

You can also make a difference by continuing your support of Homeword, inviting your friends and neighbors to learn more, getting involved in your local decision-making groups and letting your elected officials know that one of your top priorities is supporting the creation of homes Montanans can afford.

Thank you for your dedication to Montanans and for partnering with us in championing financial skills and homes for our Veterans, seniors, workers and children! Together we are strengthening Montana communities.

With gratitude,

Andrea Davis, Executive Director