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Homeless shelters in Billings prepping for first big cold blast of season

Waiting in the snow outside of Montana Rescue Mission
Posted at 6:02 PM, Oct 24, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-24 20:02:54-04

BILLINGS — With snow expected to begin falling as early as Wednesday morning, many around Billings are getting ready to brace for the cold, including those who provide an essential service for many members of the community.

While many look forward to the first snowfall of the season, it poses challenges for the unhoused community to find shelter.

Snowfall in Billings
Snowfall in Billings

Shelters across town are preparing to welcome unhoused members of the community in need of a warm bed.

“We brought back about a half dozen shovels, some snow brushes, and some bags of rock salt. All things that over the course of the year were donated," Lundgren said. "Just last week we took all the shelter guests out to our store and they were able to choose a coat, boots, hat, gloves, mittens, everything they needed so that they’re ready for the upcoming winter."

Matt Lundgren
Matt Lundgren

The Montana Rescue Mission (MRM) is the oldest and largest homeless shelter in the state.

"Every day is a little bit different. But on average we’re serving well over 200 individuals every single day," Lundgren said. "It’s not a small number."

The shelter has seen nearly double that on snowy nights in the past.

"We don’t turn people away and we always have a bed for people. Some folks have asked, 'Are you ever full?' We’ve never been full because we always just make room," Lundgren said. "Just like my grandma, she said if another person came over for dinner, you’d add another cup of water to the soup pot and you’d just stretch the soup. We do the same thing."

David Campbell is one of the many grateful for the compassion.

“It means a lot to the community," Campbell, an MRM program member, said on Tuesday. "To be able to, if you need a meal to come into for a meal, if you need a place to stay there’s a place to stay for the night. The shelter definitely helps the community out tremendously."

David Campbell
David Campbell

Over at the Community Crisis Center (CCC), a limited number of beds are available.

“About 85% of the people that walk through our doors are unhoused. And to kind of give you an idea, we have 18 beds for stabilization," said MarCee Neary, the program coordinator at CCC, on Tuesday. "Last night, we had our 18 beds full and we had 16 people waiting for beds."

MarCee Neary
MarCee Neary

The licensed mental health facility can take individuals in for up to 23 hours and 59 minutes. Then, it will help refer them to where they should go next.

"If they need shelter care, then it would be the Montana Rescue Mission," Neary said.

Last year, an emergency shelter also opened in First Congregational Church through the Billings Continuum of Care, but it will not reopen this year.

Waiting in the snow outside of Montana Rescue Mission
Waiting in the snow outside of Montana Rescue Mission

This means places like the CCC and Montana Rescue Mission are even more important this time of the year.

“A lot of people come to us and you never know who’s going to come through the front door," Lundgren said. "But we know we’re always ready for them."

Campbell agrees the shelter is a reliable spot.

"If someone does need shelter for the night when it’s cold and snowing out, come to the Montana Rescue Mission,” Campbell said.

To learn more about Montana Rescue Mission, click here.

To learn more about the Community Crisis Center, click here.