Yellowstone Co. officials working to help homeless through COVID-19 pandemic

Posted at 10:57 PM, Mar 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-27 16:11:53-04

BILLINGS — Officials with Yellowstone County Disaster and Emergency Services said they are working to boost disaster assistance to homeless, mentally ill and physically disabled during the COVID-19 pandemic.

DES coordinator KC Williams told Q2 over the phone Wednesday that emergency services is using a current group that is seeking to combat homelessness in Billings: Continuum of Care.

The continuum is made up of organizations like the Montana Rescue Mission, HUB Drop in Center, YWCA and Tumbleweed, among others.

To view a full list of services for the homeless in Billings, visit the city web site by clicking here.

Williams said Tumbleweed Executive Director Erika Willis will head up communications between the Continuum of Care groups and the county.

"In this particular role, she is serving as the head of that conglomeration, as far as their coordination and how they can all work together and take advantage of our limited resources and get everybody on the same page," Williams said.

Williams said the Continuum of Care will work closely with county disaster leadership and executive leadership from cities across the county.

"To make sure those organizations that care for those people within our population have, to the best of our abilities, the resources and the guidance that they need to take as good of care of them as they can," Williams said.

The continuum will also work closely with the Unified Health Command, the group of medical leaders that have been leading prevention efforts in the County.

Williams said the county has also extended similar communication to the Billings police and fire departments and EMS.

"Each of those branches will be responsible for coordinating the communication, response and recovery efforts for the entities that they touch, if you will," Williams said. "We need to keep all of the populations that they deal with safe. Law enforcement for example, we have to make sure that the jail system is protected and has a plan to deal with any type of infectious disease, and they do. We need to strengthen that. We need to make sure that we are all on the same page so that everybody can stay safe," Williams said.

A large piece of planning for a disaster is planning for the worst, hoping for the best and understanding reality is somewhere in between, Williams said. That's what all the local groups are trying to do now.

"As those services become challenged and stressed perhaps under circumstances that are out of our control, we need to have in place some plans and a message to deal with that. That’s what that group is currently working on," Williams said.