A temporary emergency shelter will open its doors Friday evening at 304 N. Main St. in Uptown Butte after weeks of behind-the-scenes work to find a place to house the homeless.
Margie Seccomb, executive director of the nonprofit Action Inc., said Thursday that two full-time case managers will start accepting the first group of homeless for the night likely between 5 and 6 p.m. Friday in the three-story Homeward Bound building.
She expects a busy Friday night but after that, she said the small staff — four full-time shelter managers and two full-time case managers — will probably see a smaller number of people.
The temporary shelter, which will run from November through May, will cost around $275,000. If Action Inc. didn’t already own the building, the cost would have been closer to $400,000, Seccomb said.
Action Inc. still has to raise $150,000 to $175,000. Federal funds will also be sought, she said.
The city has been without a shelter since the Butte Rescue Mission had to close its East Second Street location in April due to fire code and safety violations. Frigid weather that blew in last month forced agencies to find something to address the crisis.
Preparation continues this week to open the temporary shelter. A shower was installed on the first floor, painting is ongoing, 30 beds are in place, and more beds can be added if the need arises. Facilities for handicapped people and families are also available.
Training for the new staff continues Friday, just in time for the doors to open.
Seccomb also plans to hire a third full-time case manager. Once a homeless person arrives, case managers immediately begin work to find that person permanent residency.
“Staying in a shelter is a predictor of staying there,” Seccomb said. “We have 10 percent recidivism. Once they get stabilized, most stay in housing.”
Karen Sullivan, the county’s health director, praised the leadership that came together to solve the city’s homeless crisis. Action Inc. had been providing motel vouchers to house the homeless on frigid nights, but that was expensive and the agency was wearing out its welcome with the hospitality industry.
Sullivan particularly pointed to Seccomb’s hard work to make this happen so quickly and the efforts of the case workers to get the homeless people into permanent homes.
“A gap is being filled,” Sullivan said.
The Butte Rescue Mission, since its closure in April, has made several efforts to find a new place to relocate. But neighborhood opposition nixed those efforts.
One of those places was the Homeward Bound building at Main and Quartz, where Action Inc. will open its doors Friday evening.
Seccomb said she has not received calls from neighbors who oppose the shelter. Rather, she received one email welcoming the new shelter.
Ellen Crain, director of the Butte Archives, 17 W. Quartz St., had previously expressed concern about the Butte Rescue Mission opening at the Homeward Bound building, which is one-half block from the archives.
Crain said while she supports Seccomb’s efforts, she is concerned the homeless shelter will add to a four-block radius within Uptown that already has the pre-release center, the county jail and agencies that help mentally ill.
But, she says she understands the need. Seccomb, who visited Crain personally at the archives, addressed one of her primary concerns, which is people at the shelter would not be turned out after a meal.
Seccomb said the organization intends to feed the residents through a group of volunteers, nonprofits and St. James Healthcare, which came together to provide meals after the Butte Rescue Mission’s dilemma began.
With the shelter on the verge of opening, Seccomb said they have received “tons” of donations of blankets, towels, hygiene items and laundry detergent. Still needed are sweatpants and sweatshirts for adults of all sizes.
The homeless must have something to wear while staff launders their clothing. That should help keep bed bugs at bay.
But if that doesn’t work, the new shelter also has a “bed bug cooker,” which is big enough to hold a couch, Seccomb said.
Once bed bugs lay eggs, it’s almost impossible to get rid of the infestation. The “bed bug cooker” does what the name implies — it “cooks” the bed bugs.
On the eve of the temporary shelter’s opening, Seccomb explains that not all homeless are in dire situations.
“Some are employed. They simply can’t afford housing,” she said. “Most of them stabilize. We want people to understand, not everybody is a drug addict or an alcoholic. Some of them will refuse the help, but that’s really, truly a handful.”