A Butte-based social services agency plans to open the vacant Homeward Bound building at Quartz and Main Streets in Uptown Butte as a temporary homeless shelter next week.
Action Inc., at the urging of a coalition called the Southwest Montana Continuum of Care, expects to open the three-story building as a shelter Wednesday. The coalition includes many organizations, agencies, and charities working to end homelessness in Butte and surrounding counties.
They said at a meeting Friday that given the winter weather, Butte was in a crisis situation because there is no emergency shelter and lives are at stake.
Margie Seccomb, executive director of the nonprofit Action Inc., noted that many Uptown business owners opposed a shelter when the Butte Rescue Mission wanted to buy the building earlier this year.
Some are likely to oppose it now, too, she said, but it was an absolute necessity “so we don’t have people dying on the streets.”
Action Inc. has been giving out vouchers that allow homeless people to stay in area motels, but the agency cannot sustain those costs and “we have kind of worn out our welcome with the motels,” Seccomb said.
She and others stressed that it would only operate as a shelter through May to get people through the cold winter months.
Action Inc. owns the former Homeward Bound building and used to house homeless people and run transitional programs there but abandoned it in early 2015 when federal funding streams and priorities shifted.
Seccomb said an occupancy permit from the county is needed to open, but fire officials have already inspected the building, and the heating system is up and running. Given its previous use, it already is zoned for use as a shelter.
It would be staffed 24 hours per day, but it is not yet clear whether food will be served there since other groups offer meals to the homeless and needy in Butte, she said.
More than 20 people were at Friday’s meeting representing numerous organizations and charities, and many offered help to get the building ready and operational. They will be seeking donations for money and supplies, including toilet paper, storage bins, detergent, hygiene items, and new or “gently used” linens and towels.
Seccomb said Action Inc. planned to buy new mattresses to eliminate any concerns over bed bugs.
Revonda Stordahl, executive director of the Butte Housing Authority, said Action Inc. was “inundated” with people seeking assistance and motel vouchers when it recently turned cold and snowy.
But it shouldn’t be Action Inc.’s crisis to deal with alone, said Stordahl, who along with Seccomb is a co-chair of the Continuum of Care coalition.
Butte’s shelter dilemma began last January when fire officials said the Butte Rescue Mission could no longer house the homeless in a large home on East Second Street because of code violations and safety concerns. It was shut down in early April.
Mission officials have scurried to find another shelter location, first wanting to buy the Homeward Bound building. But those and other efforts fell through.
The mission now has a tentative buy-sell agreement for property at Arizona and Platinum Streets and says it would be a great place to locate portable housing units it has purchased for use as a shelter.
The area is on the north side of Butte’s so-called warehouse district and is zoned “heavy industrial,” so the mission needs a variance from the Zoning Board to operate a shelter there. The board will consider the request Nov. 16.