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Billings volunteers survey and count to help homeless

Kyle Stacey Peter.jpg
Posted at 11:02 PM, Jan 26, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-27 10:42:06-05

BILLINGS - Winter weather is on its way with snow and frigid temperatures, and those conditions present a real challenge to people who are homeless in Billings.

The Continuum of Care is conducting a Point-In-Time Count to determine how many people are experiencing homelessness.

Volunteers question and survey to determine the homeless population in Billings.

"We don't give ourselves enough credit sometimes," said Kyle Ja'nis, who will stay at the Montana Rescue Mission on Thursday. "A lot of people can't do what we do."

Ja'nis and his friends, Stacey Petley and Peter Carrillo, walked to the Montana Rescue Mission for dinner before they stay overnight.

It's a true bond of love and they watch out for each other near St. Vincent de Paul.

"People, they lose their morality and stuff," Ja'nis said. "Like if you lose it out here sometimes, they do. It's the streets. It's rough."

"Some people have terrorized the streets so bad like you, you don't feel safe," Petley said.

"Yeah, we take care of each other," said Carrillo. "We make sure we actually try to stay warm the best we can."

In these struggles, they often see kindness and generosity from the community and are always appreciative.

"The generosity is like paying it forward," Petley said. "Like it helps us homeless and it gets us to the community instead of people looking at us like we're trash."

The three are among a group that Continuum of Care calls unhoused neighbors and are included in this survey.

"They're staying in a place not meant for human habitation or in an emergency shelter," said Kari Boiter, Yellowstone County Continuum Of Care board president. "Or they're staying in a motel paid for with an agency voucher. Those are really the populations that we're counting tonight."

That survey will help with funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The Point-In-Time Count looks at one day, Jan. 26, nationwide.

But the surveys can be done until Feb. 2, to ask people questions such as where they slept on Jan. 26.

Forty people volunteered to do the surveys, including Billings Mayor Bill Cole.

"It's heartwarming to see what those volunteers are doing," Cole said.

This may be a one-day event, but Cole realizes it's an everyday problem for many who live outside.

The Billings City Council recently approved money for the Continuum Of Care's low-barrier shelter at First Congregational Church, along with funds to the rescue mission.

"Sadly, homelessness has been increasing all around the country, and Billings is no exception," Cole said.

"I just want a roof over my head and so I can get a job," Ja'nis said.

"God's Grace," Petley said about how she and Ja'nis stay strong and hopeful. "And God's grace is everybody, everything."