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Billings residents concerned about Salvation Army homeless village plan

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Posted at 10:54 PM, Nov 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-18 10:42:00-05

BILLINGS - Big concerns over tiny homes.

The Salvation Army plans to build a village for the homeless in Billings and some are worried about the impact on their neighborhood.

Some have raised some questions, so the Salvation Army held a special meeting Thursday to talk with neighbors.

A tiny house village is planned for a piece of land across from North Park to take care of people who are homeless and provide some shelter on cold nights.

It took just minutes for the meeting at the Salvation Army to turn tense.

"Are we going to give them a proper foundation?" one woman asked.

A group of about 25 residents voiced concerns about property values and crime, as the Salvation Army explained its motivation behind building a tiny village for the city's homeless right near North Park.

"It's hugely beneficial to moving people into a better place," said Lt. Colin Pederson of the Salvation Army.

Pederson says construction of the William Booth Village, named after the Salvation Army's founder, will start next spring with seven cabins and a commons building.

A phase two of the project will eventually add 21 more homes for a total of 28.

"I've had people that it only took a week or two and they were able to move into something more permanent," Pederson said. "And then I've had two other people that we've worked with that have taken years because of you know things in their life."

Similar tiny home villages already exist in many other cities including this one in Bozeman.

But many gathered on Thursday are adamant it's a bad idea.

"Have you looked at other locations, say outside the Billings city limits?" one man asked.

Mayor Bill Cole was among those in attendance. He too asked about crime.

"Having a roof over your head, especially in the winter, there's a lot of value to it," Cole said. "If you lose that, is there a mechanism to help people if they are found to have committed a crime?"

The Salvation Army says the village will likely help the problem, not magnify it.

"This village model has a huge impact on reducing crime and improving the neighborhood," Pederson said.

The tiny home village generated concerns as the Salvation Army looks into a new approach to help address rising homelessness in Billings.

"We are desiring to work with our neighbors," Pederson said. "We want them to come in and give us input in terms of what would be beneficial to the neighborhood."

Pederson says another meeting with neighbors will be held on Jan. 19 at 5:30 p.m.