The Butte Rescue Mission says it will be able to provide more help to get homeless people back on their feet and assist many others in need if it’s allowed to locate a shelter in the city’s warehouse district.
The homeless would get warm beds and hot meals but also case management, use of computers to seek work and lessons in basic life skills, budgeting and job hunting, among other things, Rocky Lyons, the mission’s executive director, said Monday.
If the Christian-based mission can secure land and an existing warehouse at Arizona and East Platinum streets, shower and laundry facilities would be open to those who have roofs over their heads in Butte but little else, she said.
“People don’t realize that there are an awful lot of people in our community living sub-standard without water,” Lyons said. “There are a lot of people in need in this city.”
There are also plans for a “day labor program” that would match those needing temporary help with people willing to work that day. The work could be something simple, like cleaning out someone's basement.
The mission has a tentative deal to buy 1.6 acres at 610 E. Platinum St., but it first needs a special use permit from the county. The Zoning Board meets at 5:30 p.m. Thursday in council chambers of the courthouse at 155 W. Granite to consider that.
County staff, in a report to the board, said the proposed shelter was an “appropriate use” of the long-vacant area and a permit should be issued if other conditions are met.
Those conditions include land deed changes and various permits and OKs from government agencies. Mission backers say they’re confident all requirements can be met, but a nod from the Zoning Board is needed first.
The mission has been looking for shelter locations since fire officials shut down their decades-long operation at a large house on East Second Street in April because of code violations and safety concerns.
The mission already has purchased 11 portable housing units and would move them here from North Dakota, where they have been stored and winterized, if the site comes through.
The units would be configured into separate sections, one that could house up to 24 men and the other up to 24 women and children.
The men’s section would have 10 separate “bunk rooms,” each with a door, small desk, small closets, two beds and a third bed that could be folded down. That section would have dining area and a commercial kitchen where meals for everyone at the shelter would be prepared.
A large restroom would include three showers, three toilets, and four sinks, and a small restroom would be available that women could use during meal hours.
The other section would have 15 bedrooms, a kitchen that would largely be used to teach cooking and home economics, and a large restroom with showers. There would be an indoor play area for kids and one outside, too.
Administrative offices would be in the two-story warehouse, which would also have a large “day room” where services would be offered that were not possible in the previous shelter because it was simply too small, Lyons said.
Residents could use computers to look for work and apply for jobs and would get lessons on writing resumes and dressing and preparing for job interviews.
Lessons on various skills and topics would be offered, Lyons said, and Bible studies would be available. The building would have a chapel and the same kind of community bread room that now operates at the mission thrift store at 123 E. Park St.
The mission was criticized for having residents leave its previous shelter during the day because some reportedly panhandled, but Lyons said there just wasn’t room to offer services.
At the new location, bunk rooms would be closed during the day so nobody could just sleep the hours away, Lyons said. The day room would be open, but it would be for constructive activities, Lyons said. There will be no TV.
“As long as you are doing something to better your life, you can stay in the day room,” she said.
There will be at least one staff member on hand at all times, including late-evening hours to take in those in need. People often show up late at night or on the weekends, when government services aren’t available, the mission’s backers say.
Everything will be aimed at “accountability and restoration”; healing people’s minds, bodies, and souls; and helping them become self-sustaining, Lyons said.
In years past, the mission has helped lots of people get on the right path, find permanent housing, and restore their lives, she said.
“To restore a person fully, you have to look at them holistically, provide healing holistically,” Lyons said.
Lyons said it will be costly to get everything done and there is great support in the community. For example, the Town Pump Charitable Foundation is again matching up to $30,000 in other donations to the mission this year, Lyons said.
But more support is needed for this project, she said.