BILLINGS - A viral video is putting Billings at the center of a heated discussion.
In the video, a homeless man in Portland, Ore., claims the City of Billings purchased him a one-way bus ticket.
“Well, you’re from Billings, Montana, and you’re saying the city got you a bus ticket to come to Portland?" a man asks the homeless man.
"Yes," the homeless man replies.
"They asked you where you wanted to go and they named multiple cities, you chose Portland, and they paid your way to come here?" the man asks.
"Yeah," was the reply.
"Did they set you up with any services here, like you can come to a shelter?" the man asks.
"And you have no friends or family here?"
The man interviewed, named Aaron or Andrew, says he arrived in Portland 60 days ago. The video was shared by Kevin Dahlgren, a Portland-based outreach worker who frequently posts video, photos, and stories from Portland's homeless population on social media. The video featuring the man from Billings was posted Tuesday and had 250,000 views within a couple of days.
The video is generating a conversation about an old practice called "bus therapy" where homeless individuals were once sent to other communities considered to have more resources with one-way tickets.
But a Billings homeless advocate said it simply is not true today that the homeless are given bus tickets out of town.
"We would never. There is not any partner in Billings, not the City of Billings, not any individual non-profit, not the continuum of care to send somebody on a bus to a city without any resources what-so-ever there," said Kari Boiter, a board member of Yellowstone County Continuum of Care.
A police department spokesman said in the past Billings was more likely on the receiving end of such activity.
"We were always receiving individuals," said Lt. Matt Lennick of the Billings Police Department. "We had services that other cities didn't."
Both Lennick and Boiter said that doesn't happen in Billings, or Montana, at least anymore.
"As times have changed a lot of those cities have developed some of their own services and are dealing with their own populations that are there instead of sending them to us," Lennick said.