Rising rental costs strain crisis intervention resources

POWELL – Alaina Doely, assistant director of Park County Intervention Services (CIS), got a call late one night earlier this month from a victim of domestic violence. The woman and her child were living with an abusive man and needed to find a safe place to stay. 

Unfortunately, since June of 2021, the nonprofit’s shelter has been consistently full. 

In all of 2021, the shelter had 150 bed days in the shelter. By the first week of May this year, it had 1,236 bed days, an 800-percent increase in shelter stays. By the second week of May, the increase was up to 900 percent. 

“We had to put her up in a hotel room for the night, and we’re going to try to form a game plan with her this morning to figure out what we can do going forward to help her,” Doely said. 

The reason the shelter has had such limited space for the past year is there are no affordable rentals in Cody and Powell where victims of violence can go. 

This stretches CIS’s budget thinner than it already is. Besides increased housing costs for hotel stays, there are increased costs for transportation services and utilities at the shelter. 

Every day, Doely and other crisis intervention staff scour social media and newspaper classifieds for rentals. On the rare occasion they are able to find something their clients can afford, Doely said, by the time they call, the unit has already been rented. 

“Our clients aren’t able to find anything to rent in this area for an affordable price,” Doely said. 

Lisa Peterson, director of the nonprofit, requested a $1,000 increase in CIS’s annual special funding requisition from the Powell City Council, which was granted. 

“We’ve been extremely busy.… People are staying longer in our shelter, and we’ve had to turn a number of people away,” Peterson told the council at a special funding request meeting this month, noting they’ve had to manage a lot of supervised visitation this year as well. 

As inflation and a tight rental market drive up CIS’s costs, state support hasn’t filled the growing shortfalls. 

“Our budget is flat,” Peterson said. 

Doely said CIS refers homeless clients to other service providers. All of CIS’s clients are victims of domestic abuse, stalking, or sexual assault. 

The nonprofit depends on the local and state funding, grants and private donations.