In Montana, winters are cold. There’s no getting around it. And even though we power through it each year, Montanans need to remember that staying warm is important for your health. When your body is out in the freezing weather for too long without relief, it can result in frostbite or hypothermia. The older you are, the more susceptible you are to these issues even in milder temperatures.
You can prevent health emergencies by finding warm places to recharge and sleep, layering up with warm clothing, and keeping your home at a comfortable temperature. But if you’re struggling to find a warm place to stay the night or keep your home warm in southwest Montana, know that there are resources available to you. Here are some free ways to get help staying warm in Montana this winter.
At locations in Bozeman and Livingston, HRDC welcomes anyone who needs a place to sleep for a night at their warming shelters. The warming centers are public facilities with heating and plumbing that offer seasonal shelter to anyone in need, including families with children, single adults, and couples. The space provides each individual or group with separate sleeping areas, and trained staff and volunteers are on-site at all times during operating hours.
But HRDC doesn’t stop there. When you stay at one of their warming shelters, you also have access to computers, laundry services, showers, and long-term support with housing, job support and peer support and recovery services. Daytime services are also available, including free sack lunches and WiFi. These services are open to anyone who needs them, so don’t hesitate to use this assistance when you need it.
Overnight emergency shelter services operate seasonally from November – March and the shelter is open from 7 p.m. – 7 a.m. each night. If you’re in need of services during the day, you can stop by during operating hours Sunday – Thursday from 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Warming up with layers, gloves and winter coats doesn’t have to be a huge expense. The LOVE INC Clothes Closet in Belgrade offers free gently-used clothing to take home with you. Check the calendar on their website to see the days they’re open. In Livingston, the Community Closet Thrift Store offers thrifted clothing at a discount and also offers funding to individuals and families in Park County who are in catastrophic need. Download the application here.
Having trouble paying your heating bill? Montana’s Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIEAP) provides funds to eligible households for paying their energy bills through the winter. This benefit is open to anyone in Montana by contacting your local LIEAP eligibility office. Eligibility is based on a household’s income and resource limits, so apply here to find out if you qualify anytime between October and April.
Keep your family healthy and safe from the elements by preparing your home to keep out the cold temperatures. Insulate any water lines that run along exterior walls so your water supply will be less likely to freeze. Insulate your walls and attic spaces: caulk and weather-strip doors and windows. You can find more winter weatherizing tips here. These preparation steps can protect you and your home from potential cold-weather impacts.
If you qualify for Montana’s LIEAP, you may also qualify for HRDC’s Weatherization Assistance Program. After a comprehensive home audit, renters or homeowners may receive insulation, air leakage remediation, combustion appliance testing and tune-ups, energy conservation education, and measures to improve home safety and efficiency.
Staying warm in Montana’s winters should be a priority for you and your family’s health. If you need help finding resources, your local Community Health Partners clinic is here to help. For further help with warm clothing, heat, or shelter, contact a resource coordinator at any CHP medical clinic.