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As Winter Approaches, Fewer Beds Open For Billings Homeless

Michael Speed / Flickr

A rehabilitation center that specializes in mental health and substance abuse is steeling itself to receive extra patrons this winter. Maybe more than it can accept.

The Montana Rescue Mission, Billings’ all-purpose shelter, recently made sobriety a prerequisite for people seeking shelter overnight. For the general population, 21 years old and older, that leaves the Community Crisis Center as the next option for those who need a place to bed down.

The problem is the center only has 18 beds.  Program Director MarCee Neary said they’re already pressed for space. The Crisis Center accepts walk-ins and referrals from law enforcement and local hospitals.

“Within the first three years we were filling our beds every night,” said Neary. “Then, gradually, we’ve just had more and more people who are waiting for a bed, and so, last winter in particular, it got really difficult because we were starting to hit building capacity.”

Which, Neary said, is 45 people.

The limited space and specialized nature of the center means that staff needs to determine who gets a bed based on greatest need. People who don’t get a bed may be able to stay in the lobby until the center is full.

Neary and other community members are trying to brainstorm long-term solutions for the city. She said she’ll meet with the Billings First Congregational Church next week to discuss that further.

Kayla writes about energy policy, the oil and gas industry and new electricity developments.