BILLINGS — A tiny house project received a big push forward thanks to a major gift from the Downtown Billings Rotary Club.
A project of the Salvation Army, the William Booth Village, will have 28 sleeping cabins and a communal building that has showers, a kitchen, laundry machines, and more. The houses will be built on a lot owned by the Salvation Army off of Sixth Street North across from North Park, next to the current Salvation Army building.
"This project will help our neighbors who are experiencing crisis and through transformational relationship will help give them the tools they need to move forward in life," said Lt. Felecia Pederson with the Salvation Army.
Lt. Colin Pederson with the Salvation Army says the organization will staff the village 24/7, will be fenced, and will provide an array of social services including lessons in "life skills" such as health and nutrition, communication skills, anger and stress management skills, and more.
“When you’re in transition, a lot of the challenges are just providing a shower, a place to do your laundry, finding a place to look for jobs, a place to learn the skills you may need to move forward," Colin Pederson said. "We really want to have that as part of the campus we’ll be putting together—all of those items will be part of our project so we can help people make positive steps towards self-sufficiency and stability in our community.”
Colin Pederson and Felecia Pederson, a husband-wife team, have spent a year presenting the project to the community and have met community concerns head on.
“We’ve really been working diligently with our neighbors, attending neighborhood meetings, trying to get to know our neighbors better and let them know they can be part of the process," Colin Pederson said.
Set to break ground on the first phase of the project last spring, the Pedersons say soaring building costs pushed them to rethink the plan. Instead of rolling the housing village out in phases, the Salvation Army is now raising the more than $1 million necessary to build it all at once.
The Downtown Billings Rotary Club pledged to help, starting with a $50,000 check presented to the Pedersons on Monday.
"I think when it comes to helping those that are in need, it's easy for some of us to just turn away and pretend like it's not there, but it is here, it's real, and it's something that we feel that maybe we can even have a small impact on," said Christine Maragos, president of the Downtown Billings Rotary Club. "Even if it is a small impact, at least we know that we help those people get back on track, maybe finish their education, get back into the workforce, and just be back to feeling human again and wanting to be a productive member of society."
Maragos says club members are fundraising for a second installment of $50,000 that it will also donate to the project.
Putting the Pedersons and Salvation Army closer to turning an empty lot into a safe place to sleep.