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During this weekend’s extreme winter weather, the Community Crisis Center is overcrowded



Billings, Montana – Because of the extremely low temperatures on Thursday night, the Community Crisis Center of Billings decided to provide shelter to people who were trying to escape the cold, even though it was outside of their purview. even if doing so requires using all available space.

The Crisis Center has been welcoming people with mental health and drug use disorders who have mobility challenges for the past 17 years. To make up for the dearth of low-barrier shelters in Billings, program director MarCee Neary stated that the organization operated a program for six years that housed their normal clientele at a nearby church during the winter.

To concentrate on their regular day-to-day operations, the local Continuum of Care opted this year to allocate time and resources toward supporting permanent homes instead of low-barrier shelters. But because emergency shelter is so desperately needed right now, the crisis center has been forced to accept folks who wouldn’t typically fit its criteria.

Despite the CCC’s lack of a license to operate as a low-barrier shelter, Neary acknowledged the need. She claims they have 18 beds, but on Thursday the facility accommodated 53 people.

“As we are going through this cold snap, we are being called upon by the community to deviate a little bit out of our scope of care and make sure that we can keep persons that aren’t necessarily coming for mental health and substance use disorders safe, warm, and dry and it’s putting a strain on us as a mental health center. We aren’t licensed for shelter care, but we are also recognized as an organization, we want to make sure that the more marginalized people in our community don’t freeze to death during these next few cold nights,” said Neary.

There are significantly more than 500 homeless persons in Yellowstone County, according to the 2023 Point-in-Time count. Neary stated that for the city to be able to provide for them, it will require funding, housing, and time.

The Department of Public Health and Human Services indicates, in 2022 – 9 nursing facilities closed in the state of Montana. Neary stated that in a perfect world, the state would provide a minimal standard of care for people in nursing homes.

“As we all know many nursing homes have closed in our community, and that’s not the population that we can reach or take care of. If they are here, they have to be able to feed, care for, and take themselves to the bathroom. That’s skilled nursing and we are a mental health facility, but in the meantime, we aren’t going to let someone freeze to death,” Neary said.

She emphasized that even though neither the facility nor the employees are prepared to handle the requirements of individuals who arrive, they won’t be turned away because they are people and they matter.

One example of a more significant problem the Magic City faces is the Community Crisis Center. from the demand for additional emergency and low-barrier shelters, more affordable homes, and increased outreach in the areas of mental and medical health.


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