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Homeless support groups shine light on downtown Bozeman needs

Posted at 12:29 PM, Oct 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-21 14:29:06-04

As homelessness continues to grow as a situation across the Gallatin Valley, so do the efforts of a program built around helping people find homes—that group is Outreach Bozeman.

To those behind Outreach Bozeman, the program also goes further than the camping communities, as well as those living outside of downtown Bozeman, but that doesn’t mean they do not keep an eye on Main Street.

In fact, they say they cover downtown Bozeman, themselves, on foot.

From the Bozeman Police Department to the HRDC to the Downtown Bozeman Partnership, they are also trained in both the good and the worst situations.

“We want to make life a little bit easier for people who are burdened by experiencing homelessness,” says Brian Guyer, housing director for HRDC Bozeman.

While many are out shopping or dining, they are out among them, sharing the same sidewalk—those without homes and those helping them.

“We are out, handing out cards with names and phone numbers, anything we can do to get people housed,” says Marek Ziegler, community resource officer at the Bozeman Police Department.

Ziegler and others like Guyer continue the efforts of Outreach Bozeman, walking downtown, finding those who need help.

While they do so, the Downtown Bozeman Partnership, along with DBP economic development director Emily Cope, works with them, trying to solve a common theme.

“What can we do to help our homeless community but even more on top of that, just education,” Cope says.

According to the HRDC, on average, what once was around 100 homeless on any given day across Bozeman has grown to more than 200 as of last winter, when seven people without homes died.

“I think that approach of ‘everyone is a community member’ needs to be a larger topic of discussion,” Cope says.

To fix something, officials with HRDC and DBP say one needs a toolkit, and one such tool is de-escalation training from the HRDC.

“I attended the de-escalation training a couple of months ago and it was great. It was way more hands on,” Cope says. “We were up and out of our chairs, learning how to read body language and posture.”

Meanwhile, Ziegler and a team of others working with Outreach Bozeman do just that: reach out, find those in need, and offer them resources to survive.

“We all just pull together to kind of hit this topic on the head and we’re able to pull our strings together,” Cope says.

The HRDC is already planning another de-escalation training and sign-ups are available now for anyone who wants to attend.

The next training will be from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 12 and will be at the Bozeman Warming Center on Wheat Drive off of 7th Avenue.

Again, sign-ups are open but are limited and while they are aimed more at business owners and employers, everyone is encouraged to attend a training if they can.