Blog

Opening another door to brighter futures at Mountain Home Montana.

June 25, 2024

Mountain Home Montana was created in 2000 when a local nurse, Laura Snyder, saw young mothers and their newborns discharged without safe living conditions. In those 24 years, Mountain Home has relied on our grassroots beginnings to continuously grow to meet the needs of young pregnant and parenting women and people and their families. Most people associate Mountain Home with our residential group home but throughout our history, we have added a network of programs to more holistically meet the needs of Montana’s young mothers and their children. In 2013, we added a licensed mental health center that has only grown over the years to include a drop-in community education center, offering 200+ community events ranging from financial literacy to parenting curriculum to health and wellness; and an evidence-based supportive education and employment program that helps the young women in our programs grow their financial independence and stability for themselves and their families. In 2020, we added individualized therapy and case management for children, and in 2021, we opened one of Montana’s first trauma-informed childcare centers to grow our two-generational approach to care. 

 And Mountain Home still isn’t done growing. As one of only three organizations providing long-term residential support to young families in Montana, we have residents from all over the state, including from rural areas. As housing, mental and medical healthcare, and childcare has become inaccessible to many low-income women and families over the past several years, Mountain Home is expanding our services, opening another door to brighter futures. A little more than a year ago, on June 20, 2023, Mountain Home purchased a former nursing home in Missoula to expand our services. By the time the new facility is up and running in October 2025, we will be able to house 26 families through a 6-bedroom maternity group home and 20 transitional housing units (from just 11 families at our current facility), increase our childcare capacity from 12 children ages 0-3, to 32 children ages 0-5, and host more of our partners on-site to reduce barriers to healthcare, and parenting, while offering other community resources for our families. 

 All of this growth is needed now more than ever. Every day, Mountain Home has a waiting list of 35+ families waiting to access our programs. These are some of the most vulnerable women and families in our state, all are at risk for becoming unhoused due to lack of family and peer support, nearly 70% have experienced domestic violence, and 54% of our mothers were part of the foster care system themselves. Montana is also in a severe housing crisis with rising home and rental costs and record low vacancy. Most concerningly, there has been a steep decline in maternal and child mental healthcare, which is particularly harmful for Montana’s perinatal women, 20% of whom report feelings of depression, not to mention the higher rates of postpartum depression that often come from Montana’s isolating landscape. Their children are also suffering. Last year, as many as half of all children enrolled in Medicaid lost coverage between April and December of 2023. To set these women and their families back even more, childcare costs more than college tuition. Even for families that can afford childcare, Montana only has enough slots for one in three kids who need it. 

 Often, organizations like ours step in to fill the gap. With these overwhelming service gaps, Mountain Home focuses on providing women and families with a holistic network of services that effectively break cycles of generational poverty, violence, and trauma. In addition to our residential and mental health supports that help both women and children stabilize in safe environments we also offer innovative programs, funded in part by the Women’s Foundation of Montana, to increase the financial independence of women and their families. These programs include. 

 Supportive Education & Employment Program: 

For the young women accessing Mountain Home’s program, the most significant step towards supporting themselves and their families in building safe and stable homes is by empowering them through education and employment. Based on a highly successful Individualized Placement and Support model out of Dartmouth University, our supportive education and employment program empowers people to live healthy, productive lives through employment and education despite their past trauma and mental illness. This model works collaboratively with Mountain Home’s wrap-around model of care to create sustainability and upward mobility for women and their families. It also helped to ensure that 80% of the 75 women we served last year were employed or enrolled in educational programs after one year at Mountain Home. 

 By offering all of these employment and educational supports for as long as one of our young mothers needs, our supportive education and employment coordinators, are there every step. At the same time, women enrolled in our program work towards reaching their goals for themselves and, ultimately, their children. Our coordinators work closely with our moms on employment stability and benefits counseling. For example, if one of our moms is showing up late to work due to unreliable childcare, supportive education and employment coordinators work with both families and employers to find long-term solutions like finding a new daycare or adapting a work schedule. Coordinators also ensure that families don’t suddenly lose significant benefits like Medicaid and SNAP until they find employment that allows for a more stable transition into self-sufficiency. Our supportive education and employment program thrives on empowering our young mothers to advocate for themselves in a world with significant barriers for them. 

 Guaranteed Income Pilot Program / LIFT: 

Starting in July of 2022, Mountain Home was proud to have implemented Montana’s first guaranteed income initiative, the LIFT pilot program. We collaborated with Stanford University to develop LIFT and provide evidence to assist Mountain Home’s young families in achieving a sustainable exit from poverty. The LIFT pilot program was privately and generously financed by a committed donor. It provided eight families in need with a monthly financial gift directly deposited into an established bank account between August 2022 and July 2023. Mountain Home offered participants monthly resource sessions in collaboration with local financial institutions and family service organizations to build financial literacy and foster family stability. Through monthly feedback, recipients have reported that they have utilized the funds to attend healthcare visits, pay off credit card debt, make the first deposit to secure housing. LIFT provides clients with dignity and the capability to make the best choices for themselves and their children. From the first brief round of benefits we were heartened to learn that the cash assistance allowed women to spend more quality time with their children, when they were less worried about everyday financial burdens. We now have an involved community based committee evaluating and developing a second round of funding to a new cohort of young families to create more insight and prosperity for under-resourced families across the state. 

 

If you’d like to learn more about Mountain Home’s services or our two-generational approach to community building and family care, please visit our website at https://www.mountainhomemt.org/ . If you’d like to help us raise our last $500,000 for our expansion project or support our innovative financial support for Montana women, check out our donation page at https://www.mountainhomemt.org/donate/