This week, Action Inc., with the help and support of The Southwest Montana Continuum of Care Coalition, is opening an emergency homeless shelter on North Main Street.
A previous proposal to site a more permanent shelter there was roundly opposed by neighboring businesses in Uptown Butte. We understand those concerns.
But since the closing of the Rescue Mission early this year, there has been much talk and effort around finding another solution. There just has not been much definitive progress.
Now, to the surprise of no one in this town, it’s cold and snowy and we are literally in danger of people dying on the street.
Fingers can be pointed in dozens of directions about why we are at this current pass. All of that is an utter waste of time.
We need this emergency temporary shelter. We also need to make sure we are not in this position in Novembers to come.
The Rescue Mission has yet another long-term plan in the works, after being rebuffed in several other locations. That effort is deserving of scrutiny and a fair chance. Others have come forward with suggestions. There is vacant land that could potentially be donated in an area without residential neighbors. There is the potential of state and federal funding to help forge a permanent solution.
And there is also, currently not being used at all in accordance with the terms of its giving, a $622,000 bequest from a generous Butte man, Burt Kinyon, to the Salvation Army. That was given with the proviso that it was “for use in the Butte, Montana area.” Nothing would be more appropriate for the Salvation Army to use this money, which the agency has now held for seven years, to help fund a long-term solution to this issue. We will not let this matter drop.
The Continuum of Care Coalition is focused on preventing homelessness with diverting people from the situation causing the problem; and working to eliminate the issue by matching resources to individual needs, and prioritizing those with particular needs for rapid rehousing and permanent housing. The model, which has shown great promise nationally, is clearly an integral part of any long-term solution.
The Butte Rescue Mission, which is a faith-based non-profit, is much more focused on providing short-term housing help. Which model works best is not something we wish to debate on November 6. We believe there is a place for both systems.
But now, we must support the Continuum of Care and Action Inc. in their courageous effort to save lives and improve outcomes for people on the street today, in the snow and cold. We must put aside valid concerns about the location of this emergency shelter, and open our hearts to it.
And our wallets. Total cost for this winter’s assistance with this shelter is going to be in the neighborhood of $150,000. Many are already giving. On this page Sunday were some practical suggestions for help. Please heed them.
Both short-term and long-term, we must all work together as one community to find solutions. We must resolve not to allow this very real but very predictable “emergency,” also known as “winter,” to catch us short again next year.
In the meantime, we suggest embracing this as a necessary precursor to better plans ahead, and assisting and applauding Margie Seccomb and the others with Action Inc. and the Continuum of Care. They are not the problem.
They are our heroes.