The Salvation Army in Billings, with the help of the Gianforte Family Foundation, will build a few dozen small homes for the homeless in a vacant lot on North 6th Street near downtown Billings.
The collection of tiny homes will be known as William Booth Village and construction on the first phase will begin early next year. William Booth founded the Salvation Army in London in 1865.
“I’ve always admired the model of the village,” said Lt. Colin Pederson, chief of the Salvation Army‘s Billings Corps. “We try to do our part to help the community.”
The $1.8 million project has been in the works for a few years and one of its biggest hurdles has been getting the funding, Pederson said. The Gianforte Family Foundation recently donated $150,000 for Phase 1 of the project, helping to get the project over the starting line.
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“We’re finally at a point where we’re ready to move forward,” Pederson said.
The village will provide housing for those who have difficulty accessing other shelters or programs in the city. The tiny houses will be individual cabins, accessible to wheelchairs. Phase 1 begins with the construction of seven or eight of them.
They won’t have running water; instead, occupants will shower and do laundry at nearby Salvation Army facilities. Some will offer a three month stay and others will work on a two year tenure.
The cabins’ unique housing feature will allow residents some privacy and dignity, said Denise Czurynski, communications manager for the foundation.
Having them use Salvation Army facilities to shower and do laundry will help residents socialize, she said.
Various organizations in Billings provide emergency, low-barrier, and long-term shelter for transient and homeless populations in the city. But some members of those populations are falling through the cracks, Pederson said, and his hope is that the tiny house village will catch up with them.
“Housing in Billings, and all over the state, is really, really tough right now,” Czuprynski said.
Currently, Billings has about three types of shelters that provide services.
The first is the Community Crisis Center, which provides immediate crisis care and connects individuals with a social worker and services within 24 hours.
Then there’s the Montana Rescue Mission, a private Christian shelter that focuses on providing shelter, training, and services to those looking to get off the streets, fight addictions, and find work.
Between the two is the Billings Low Barrier Shelter, a space for those who do not need immediate help from the crisis center but are not ready for the more structured services offered by the rescue mission. from Montana.
In most cases, the issues that lead people to homelessness or transience cannot be addressed and resolved until they have stable and secure housing. Pederson thinks the Tiny Homes project can provide that stability.
It’s specifically designed to help those who couldn’t find help elsewhere, he said.
To illustrate the point, Pederson mentioned one of the best-known homeless residents of downtown Billings. The man was incontinent and was carrying a colostomy bag. As a result, the living facilities of devotees in the other downtown shelters were not available to him.
It did not address addiction or abuse, Pederson said. He simply had a health problem that prevented other shelters from helping him. Pederson sees the Tiny House Village model as the perfect solution to problems like these.
“In our opinion, it really fills the void in this community,” he said.