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Mission Director Rocky Lyons Butte's future homeless shelter

Rocky Lyons, executive director of the Butte Rescue Mission, poses during a snowstorm Thursday in front of the newly purchased property for the future home of the mission. "This is why we need a shelter," said Lyons of the weather conditions.

The Butte Rescue Mission said Thursday it has "reached a milestone on its journey" toward a new homeless shelter by purchasing land and a vacant building at Arizona and East Platinum streets near Butte's warehouse district.

The $185,000 purchase comes a year after the mission was forced to close its longstanding shelter on Second Street because of fire code violations. That was followed by months of bad news and let-downs in its search for a new home for those on the streets.

"We never lost faith in the Butte community," said Mission Executive Director Rocky Lyons. "I did wonder more than once, 'What is God doing here?' But it was clear there were closed doors for a reason. Now he continues to open those doors in a lot of different ways."

The purchase of 1.6 acres and a vacant warehouse came one day after Town Pump said it was donating $200,000 to the mission for its planned shelter and a promise to match other donations up to an additional $200,000.

In February, the Butte Central Foundation granted an easement on the north side of the property, and last month, the Gianforte Family Foundation based in Bozeman gave a $270,000 donation to the mission's capital campaign.

The mission needs more money to complete the project and faces other hurdles, but Lyons is confident that heavy lifting at the site will begin in June and the shelter will be up and running this fall.

The mission plans to move portable housing units it purchased in North Dakota to the property in Butte to serve as the shelter, housing up to 56 men, women and children.

They will use the warehouse for social and job-seeking programs, a chapel, a health clinic, a community bread room and a children's play area. Administrative officers will also be in that building.

"Our campus will not only feed and shelter the homeless, but we will also have room for much-needed programs," Lyons said.

The Butte-Silver Bow Zoning Board OK'd the location for a shelter in November, but that came with numerous requirements. The mission must set up water, electric, and gas connections as well as obtain various permits and do landscaping work, among other things.

The mission had a tentative agreement to buy the property months ago, but it needed BNSF Railway to lift deed restrictions.

"BNSF is proud of the collaborative effort to ensure the future home of the Butte Rescue Mission," Ross Lane, director of public affairs for BNSF, said in a news release Thursday. "BNSF is committed to being a positive community partner in the communities in which we operate."

To get the deed changed, the site needed clearance from federal and state environmental regulators. That took some time, but the agencies "bent over backwards to help us," Lyons said. Butte-based Pioneer Technical Services handled much of the technical and engineering work and continues to assist the project, she said.

When mission officials learned they needed an easement that belonged to the Butte Central Foundation, it gladly granted it, she said. Then came the donation from the Gianforte Family Foundation, followed by the one from the Town Pump Charitable Foundation.

"The Butte Rescue Mission has served a vital role in the Butte community, and we could not be happier that they're one step closer to again providing a safe and warm place for Montana's homeless," said Catherine Koenen, executive director of the Gianforte Foundation.

"But they aren't stopping there," she said. "The Rescue Mission will provide the services that help families get back on their feet and on a path to self-sufficiency."

Lyons said the total cost of the project will be close to $1.5 million, so the mission still needs cash donations. Businesses also can donate time and labor that will be counted toward the $200,000 for the additional Town Pump gift, she said.

"It's a call to action to rally behind us and get the project done," Lyons said. "It's not my project; it isn't the Rescue Mission's project; it's the community's project. It's not our Rescue Mission; it's Butte's Rescue Mission."

Once it's complete, Lyons said, she and others can "get back to what we do best, and that is serving the hurting, hungry, and homeless of southwest Montana."

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