Work has begun at the new Butte Rescue Mission homeless shelter site on East Platinum Street, but the group has backed off committing to a firm opening date, which had been set for Oct. 8 and was more recently estimated to be coming in mid-December.
That’s according to Paul Buckley, president of the mission’s board of directors, who offered an update on the shelter’s plans Friday morning during the Southwest Montana Continuum of Care Coalition’s monthly meeting.
According to Buckley, the concrete pads where the mobile units that will comprise the shelter will be installed are “pretty much in place.” In addition, the mission’s director, Rocky Lyons, is in the process of interviewing candidates and otherwise putting together the staff to work in the new facility, Buckley said.
But the mission has also run into some complications now that shovels are in the ground, Buckley told the meeting’s attendees. He noted that the stormwater control system had to be redesigned and plans for a foundation had to be revised due to unexpected soil content at the site.
Acknowledging the inevitability of such issues arising during the construction process and the unpredictability of the weather, Buckley said it was impossible to know when exactly the shelter will open. But he said the mission is working as fast as possible: “We’re working to get that facility open just as soon as we can.”
In the meantime, Buckley said Lyons and the mission were committed to helping people with food, gas vouchers, motel vouchers, and other services.
“If you have folks that need help,” Buckley told the other approximately 25 attendees of Friday’s meeting, “contact Rocky.”
That comment sparked a broader discussion about the Continuum of Care Coalition’s coordinated entry team and the need to enhance cooperation among all local social services groups to ensure their efforts are streamlined and resources are used efficiently.
The coordinated entry team assesses people who are experiencing homelessness at three locations in Butte and meets weekly, on Thursday mornings, to discuss how best to find these people shelter, other services, and ultimately permanent housing.
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But Margie Seccomb, CEO of Action Inc., noted that it is “critical” to find a way to respond more quickly and cohesively to find resources for folks, especially in the absence of a shelter where people can stay while they wait for support.
According to Stephanie Marshall, Action Inc.’s supportive services manager, the goal should be a “quicker, triage-type solution.”
And the Rescue Mission wasn’t the only group that members of the coordinated entry team said they hoped to incorporate into their efforts. The other group was the Salvation Army, which had a pair of representatives at the meeting.
Though the Salvation Army has largely been inactive in Butte for the past decade or so, the group has recently ramped up its efforts in the area by providing resources to the homeless and low-income residents, according to Don Raley, director of its local operation.
“We’re going strong, and we’re going to go stronger,” Raley said.
But Seccomb noted that it’s important to ensure the group’s efforts aren’t being duplicated and that they too are integrated in the work the Continuum of Care Coalition is already doing.
“We need to work on a system here,” Seccomb said.
As much of Friday's meeting focused on creating an organized response to Butte's current lack of a homeless shelter, the extent of the effort to provide resources was evident.
Along with the ongoing work of the Rescue Mission and the increasing presence of the Salvation Army, Marshall also discussed an ongoing drive that has been gathering new and gently used backpacks, sleeping bags, gloves, and other winter supplies and distributing them to people experiencing homelessness.