By Penny Johnson HRDC
BOZEMAN – The Warming Center, HRDC’s seasonal, overnight shelter for people experiencing homelessness opens to the public in Bozeman and Livingston on Nov. 1, with operations stretching through the cold fall and winter months.
As Southwest Montana’s affordable housing crisis continues to rapidly escalate given soaring rents and the average home price approaching $800,000 in Bozeman, Brian Guyer, Housing Director for HRDC, expects additional pressure on HRDC’s emergency shelters and wonders whether the basic needs of our neighbors will be able to be properly met in the coming months without financial support from the community.
“Most of us have witnessed the challenges of the significant housing crisis occurring in our community. The various impacts from Covid, including many new out-of-state homebuyers, has compounded the rapidly escalating cost of living. For many, the opportunity to purchase a home has all but evaporated, but so did the opportunity to find an affordable place to rent. The effects of unaffordable housing are everywhere. More than ever, folks have been forced to live out of campers and cars and tents on our city streets because they are unable to secure a housing situation that is within their means.”
With conducive weather, living in a vehicle or tent meets the bare minimum of requirements for an individual or a family, but maintaining these same circumstances during Montana’s harsh winter months can be deadly. Gallatin Valley has experienced an escalating number of deaths over the past several years due to exposure. These often-preventable deaths are unacceptable to HRDC which fundamentally believes everyone deserves to be warm at night.
“We strive to ensure we are treating our guests with the utmost dignity and support,” said Jenna Huey, Emergency Shelter Services Manager. We do everything we can to help make someone’s stay with us comfortable, but temporary.” Huey’s counterpart in Livingston, Sonya Wheeler added, “Our goal is to work with each guest individually to help move them up the housing ladder. No one ever really wants to be without a place to call home, and our facilities, while they meet basic needs, they are certainly not a long-term housing solution for anyone.”
Guyer, Huey, and Wheeler agree that the services they provide to anyone in need at the Warming Centers couldn’t happen without the support of residents throughout Gallatin Valley and Park County. The need for emergency assistance is much higher than anyone thinks. Through garnering significant volunteer hours to securing monetary donations, the seasonal shelters exist in large part because of the generosity of the community. With winter weather in the forecast for the foreseeable future and a shortage of places for people to live, indoor refuge at the Warming Centers is a necessity now more than ever.
For more information about HRDC’s Bozeman Warming Center initiative, click here.
For more information about HRDC’s Livingston Warming Center initiative, click here.