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Low-barrier emergency shelter opens in Billings

The outside of First Congregational Church in downtown Billings
Orlinda Worthington
/
Yellowstone Public Radio
A new low-barrier shelter has opened in First Congregational Church in downtown Billings.

An emergency low-barrier shelter opened Wednesday night in downtown Billings.

A Christmas tree stands in the lobby of First Congregational Church
Orlinda Worthington
/
Yellowstone Public Radio
A Christmas tree stands in the lobby of First Congregational Church.

Volunteers with the Continuum of Care worked early in the week to turn the First Congregational Church into a safe space ahead of Montana’s plummeting temperatures.

Kari Boiter is the president of the CoC board. She says low barrier shelter serves as a relief valve for guests who might not be able to stay at other shelters.

“We’re able to serve people who have disabilities with wheelchairs and walkers, medical needs, as well as people with service animals," she said. "That's something new in our community that hasn't been able to be done before.

"We can also take people who may not be sober, who might have substances on board, as well as people cycling in and out of crisis.”

A closet is full of free clothes, shoes and coats
Orlinda Worthington
/
Yellowstone Public Radio
The new shelter offers free coats, gloves and clothing. Donations are welcome.

The shelter is approved to house up to 31 guests through April 30, if the need persists. Boiter says it’s open to all, after passing a screening process.

“What we do is every night we're going to screen people to make sure that they're safe to be there for the night, and that there isn't a better place for them to be connected with services for the night," she said. "So, this is really a shelter for people with nowhere else to turn.”

The shelter also offers free coats, hats, gloves and snacks for those in need. Donations are accepted.

The shelter welcomed 18 guests the first night it was open; 13 people spent the night.

Orlinda Worthington hosts “Morning Edition” weekdays on YPR. She brings 20 years of experience as Montana television news anchor, producer, and reporter.