The Butte Rescue Mission is seeking a new zoning variance that would allow it to shelter homeless people in portable housing units on property at Arizona and Platinum streets.
It’s the latest potential site the mission has proposed since it was forced to close its longstanding shelter at 1204 E. Second St. in April because of fire safety concerns.
The mission has a tentative buy-sell agreement with John and Marie Cashell in Butte to purchase 1.6 acres at 610 E. Platinum Street, where it intersects with Arizona, said Rocky Lyons, the mission’s executive director.
The area is on the north side of Butte’s so-called warehouse district and would be a great spot for portable housing units the mission purchased months ago in North Dakota, Lyons said.
The mission bought the units after efforts to locate a shelter in a vacant Uptown building and then an empty school on the Flat fell through in part because of opposition from residents and businesses in those areas. The mission later hoped to locate the units off of South Harrison Avenue, but the landowner pulled out.
There are three residences nearby to the north of the new site, but the area is zoned “heavy industrial.” The lot has an old, two-story warehouse and a gravel parking area and is sparsely covered with grasses and weeds.
East Platinum dead-ends at the east end of the lot, and there is open land to the south and southeast. Mission officials have applied for a needed variance, and the Zoning Board could consider the request Nov. 16.
The mission says it would plant trees and shrubs on the lot to make it more appealing and could use the warehouse for an administration office and dayroom where people could shower and do laundry.
“Our first priority would be getting our units set and start feeding and sheltering people,” Lyons said.
If a variance is granted and weather cooperates, mission officials say they could have groundwork done and move portable units onto the property by late December. Painting, cleanup, hiring, and stocking the new facility could be done by February.
Lyons said that timetable would be difficult to meet if the cold and snowy weather this week doesn’t let up and winter truly sets in. If that’s the case, it could be spring before the shelter is up and running.
The zoning application is complete and very detailed, Lyons said, and includes site maps and artist renderings of how the facility would look.
Dave Palmer, Butte-Silver Bow’s chief executive, said the site needs to be tested for possible mine contamination and there could be other issues involved. But in general, he said it would probably be a good location for a shelter since it’s in a largely industrial area away from neighborhoods.