Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's)


Q: What age group do you serve?

A: High School Students, i.e. age 13-19.

Q: What are the qualifications for students who want to live in the home?

A: The basics for living in the program are as follow: students must be enrolled in high school and motivated to complete their degree; be homeless as defined by the McKinney-Vento Act; and, be willing to pass a drug test.

We cannot accept pregnant/parenting teens or students living in the foster care system. However, the organization is happy to connect students with resources in the community more capable of providing the necessary assistance.

We outline the qualifications for candidates on our page.

 Q: What is the McKinney-Vento Act?

A: Broadly, this law passed by Congress in 1987 provides federal funding to homeless shelter programs across the country. The bi-partisan bill named after the initial sponsors, Stewart McKinney (R-CT) and Bruce Vento (D-MN), established the Interagency Council on Homelessness and continues to be renewed by Congress. 

Congress derived this language for this Act from an Illinois statute, which defines “homeless children,” as “individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence.” Descriptions and examples of children protected by this Act include:

  • (a) Children sharing housing due to economic hardship or loss of housing;

  • (b) Children living in “motels, hotels, trailer parks, or campgrounds due to lack of alternative accommodations”

  • (c) Children living in “emergency or transitional shelters”

  • (d) Children whose primary nighttime residence is not ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation (e.g. park benches, etc.)

  • (e) Children living in “cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations…”

Under the McKinney-Vento Assistance Act, school districts are mandated by federal law to provide transportation for its students. As a result, Sparrow’s Nest of Northwest Montana’s home serves the Bigfork, Columbia Falls, Kalispell, and Whitefish School districts. This means that its residents do not have to transfer schools when they move into the Sparrow’s Nest Home.

Q: Do you receive in government money?

A: No. Sparrow’s Nest of Northwest Montana operates in service needs gap. High School students defined as homeless by the Department of Education are not offered the same resources as individuals defined as homeless by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Q: Are you a religious-affiliated organization?

A: No. We are not a religious-affiliated organization.  The decision to operate in a secular capacity was made by the board back in 2014.

However, homelessness at all levels is a community issue, and churches provide outstanding work on the issue. As a result, the Sparrow’s Nest’s work overlaps with the many of projects sponsored by religious organizations in Flathead Valley. Churches and their communities provide some the organization’s most reliable support. We value their networks and are grateful to call them some of our strongest partnerships.

Q: Do you have a “House Parent?”

A: We have a compassionate and strong cast of characters that help manage the home. This includes house managers and a case manager. We house minors, so the program requires 24/7 staffing. These individuals work closely together to meet to coordinate student’s schedules to their needs.

Q: How would you like to be involved? Volunteer, apply for a job or donate?

A: We always need volunteers. These tasks range from the mundane- office work, to physical- yard work, social-outreach at community events, or rewarding- teaching life skills classes to the students. For more information on how to sign up online and events, please check out our events page. If you are interested in more information, we provide a quarterly newsletter list that you can subscribe to here as well.

Q: What kind of things can I donate?

Typically, we look for anything you can donate that you would want to have in a home or office. We do accept clothing donations. Often times though because of the specificity and difference in sizes between our students, we refer people interested in donating clothes to The Heart Locker. However, we serve as an auxiliary donation location for this free drop in program. Their service provides a broader reach to your donation and is available to a wider variety of students, including our own, throughout the Valley.

Q: Where are you located?

A: Our office is based out of Kalispell on the top floor of the office building for the Christ Church. The members of the congregation were kind enough to donate this space. The address is 215 3rd Ave East in Kalispell. Any mail must reach us through our PO BOX, P.O. Box 8384 Kalispell, MT 59904.

For the safety and privacy of our residents, we do not disclose the location of the home to the public. If you know the location, please contact staff before stopping by the house. Unannounced visits are not appreciated. This is a home.

Q: What events are you participating in this year?

A: What are we not doing? You will find us at a variety of community events, job fairs, or in coalition meetings with the non-profits in the area. Our biggest events are “When the Night Comes,” The Somebody’s Campaign, and the Whitefish Community Foundation’s Annual Great Fish Challenge. 

“When the Night Comes” is an annual event where staff, volunteers, and community members are sponsored to sleep outside for one night in December. It raises awareness of the physical challenges that unaccompanied youth experience on a daily basis. This year’s event will be held on December 8th 5PM-7AM. 

The Somebodies Campaign increases awareness surrounding unaccompanied homeless high school students in Flathead Valley. Set to run in April, over 75 “Somebodies” are placed around Kalispell, Columbia Falls, Bigfork, Whitefish and Lakeside.  These “Somebodies” are mannequins outfitted to look like high school students with signs explaining a student’s situation, such as “I have no place to go,” or “I am hungry.” In order to portray the everyday realities for unaccompanied and homeless high school students in our community, each “Somebody” has an educational sign next to it that provides the federal definition of “homelessness” under the McKinney-Vento Act along with reasons why many youth experience homelessness. 

The Great Fish Challenge is a fundraiser hosted by the Whitefish Community Foundation. The raises money through the Foundation and in turn receives incentive grants for meeting specific benchmarks, raising the most money, or motivating the most donors.