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The homeless in Montana suffered through some very cold temperatures this week


Some of the country's coldest temperatures this week have been in Montana. We're talking close to 50 degrees below zero with biting winds that made it feel even colder. It's a dangerous place to be homeless, as Austin Amestoy with Montana Public Radio reports.

AUSTIN AMESTOY, BYLINE: One of the state's biggest homeless shelters is the Poverello Center in Missoula, where Jill Bonny is in charge.

JILL BONNY: It seems strange to say I hope that we are at capacity, but if that's how many people need shelter, then I - yes, I hope we're at capacity.

AMESTOY: Bonny says 28 people died while homeless in Missoula this year. That's a few more than in previous years. They're proud that none of the deaths were cold-related.


AMESTOY: The annual ceremony memorializing deaths of people without housing in the capital city, Helena, is usually held outdoors. This year, it was moved inside the state Capitol rotunda as the temperature plunged to 29 degrees below zero. Helena's symphony orchestra played a Jewish musical meditation for mourning. Jenifer Gursky with YWCA Helena led the ceremony.


JENIFER GURSKY: Tonight, as we gather in our people's house, there are some of our neighbors struggling to simply keep their fingers and toes warm, struggling to know where their next gallon of gas is coming from and wondering if they fall asleep under their blankets, if they will wake up.

AMESTOY: Organizations in many Montana cities and towns have opened special shelters or warming centers this week to try to save people's lives. Some are offering hotel vouchers and discouraging people from sleeping in their cars. The organization that runs Bozeman's largest warming shelter is scrambling to stay open 24 hours a day during this cold snap.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: You know, we are doing what it takes right now to shift funding to be able to do this. But as we all know, our winters here are long.

AMESTOY: For NPR News, I'm Austin Amestoy in Missoula, Mont.

(SOUNDBITE OF CLOUDKICKER'S "CRAWL SPACES") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Austin Amestoy