Home for mentally ill closes 

J’s House, Montana’s only assisted living facility for the mentally ill, plans to close its doors March 2 due to financial difficulty, leaving 30 Missoula patients without a home.

“I don’t know where [the residents] are going to go. They’ll be left to their caseworkers, and the courts I guess,” says Brian Becker, J’s House administrator. “I wish I could keep this place going.”

Originally founded as a private business, J’s House faced challenges over the last few years that created substantial financial difficulties, says owner Kay Jennings. To keep the house afloat the state provided a $10 a day subsidy per resident through the Western Montana Mental Health Service. But that money has since dried up, she says.

“It got smaller, and smaller over the last five years, and then it just went away,”  she says.

Ten years ago Jennings and her husband Hank bought the house, located at 1811 S. 7th St., and used it as a residence for people experiencing severe mental illness who needed help integrating back into the community.

Last September J’s House, known at the time as Hawthorne House, became a nonprofit agency in hopes finding donors to sustain the services, but the difficulties continued.

“We’ve tried our best, but Kay and I don’t know a bunch about raising money and getting donations from the public,” Becker says.

Jennings says expenses run roughly $27,000 a month. Without any subsidy from the state, she says the shortfall totals roughly $10,000 per month. A generous donor who Jennings declined to name had kept the facility afloat for several months, but now that resource has dried up as well.

Becker has confidence in the ability of state-assigned caseworkers to find housing for J’s House displaced residents, but he worries about what will happen to them.

“It bothers me,” says Becker. “I’ve got 30 people here who are going to be out on the streets now because we can’t help them.”
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