In rural Ravalli County, MT the poverty rate is about 18.8% which means as many as 11,795 people are living with housing insecurity. They are earning 80% of the median household income or per capita income and spending 50% of their income on housing. The Bitterroot Valley has been described as "poverty with a view."
Organizations like Ravalli Head Start and S.A.F.E. are reporting that 25% of their clients are homeless. The Office of Public Instruction has about 2,500 children are on free or reduced meals. Their is a three year waiting list for Section 8 housing.
In October of 2016 the Bitter Root Resource Conservation and Development Area began providing Backbone Organization support to the 30 organizations attempting to prevent homelessness and alleviate housing insecurity in the Bitterroot Valley.
Our initiative has representation from the Ravalli County Commissioners, mental health providers, low income housing owners, nonprofit organizations, employment agencies, human resource agencies, faith based organizations, health care providers and the chamber of commerce.
We are creating awareness and public will about the homelessness and housing insecurity situation. We are gathering data and anecdotal information about the people effected. When we understand what is currently being done, what is working, what is not working, what can be done different and what is missing we will recommend solutions.
We are still developing the data needed to decide what actions are needed.
There is a feeling that change is possible. The community is developing trust amongst its members. Communication and cooperation are improving. We have a common agenda. We are developing measures of progress. None of which would be possible without the support of a backbone organization.
Much of our work is being done by volunteers. The compassion and empathy of our community is inspiring.
In the beginning we tried to do too much with the entire task force. Our steering committee has developed into a thoughtful and visionary group that is guiding the efforts of the initiative.
Providing information in multiple formats so that it is available to each member at their comfort level has been important to continuous communication.
Patience and persistence will pay off when trust and respect are achieved.
Use the resources provided by the Collective Impact Forum.