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HRDC celebrates progress and plans for the future of new homeless shelter

Warming Center
Posted at 7:38 PM, May 30, 2024

BOZEMAN — On Thursday, HRDC held a “walls up” ceremony to recognize the progress of its new homeless shelter. So how will this new facility differ from the Warming Center?

“Right now, our existing shelter facility just barely has the capacity to be a shelter facility,” Heather Grenier tells me.

Heather is the President and CEO of HRDC. She has been with the nonprofit for over 18 years and has seen the way Bozeman’s homeless population has grown. In 2011, HRDC built its Warming Center. Heather says the first year it was open?

“We served I think an average of 17 people a night. And a total of 74 people in the first year. And last year we were serving an average of 100 people a night and over 700, almost 800 people within the Warming Center last year.”

According to HRDC, in Montana, the number of people experiencing homelessness increased by a staggering 45% between 2022 and 2023. Which is why HRDC is creating a new homeless shelter called Homeward Point.

HRDC says this new facility will provide a permanent solution, as opposed to the warming center, which HRDC says was never meant to be long-term.

I asked how this new facility will be different and Heather told me, “Pairing shelter space with wraparound supportive services like behavioral health, primary health care, and job services, really accelerates someone's path back to security and back to housing."

This new facility will offer a range of services to those experiencing homelessness. It will also offer separate spaces for family housing.

Another way the new facility could differ is by changing its acceptance model. Currently the Warming Center is low barrier, which means anyone experiencing homelessness is welcome in. High barrier would put limits on who can enter the new facility. Some examples include sobriety requirements and background checks.

“We’re talking to the community about what type of facility the Homeward Point should be. Should we be low barrier or should we be high barrier? We're having those conversations with our partners and those in our community experiencing homelessness,” says Heather.

Because the Warming Center is low barrier, police have said the surrounding Wheat Drive area has become a hub for crime and drug use. So I asked Heather if the new facility is low barrier, how would HRDC prevent the same outcome from occurring at the new facility?

“I would say that would have nothing to do with the Warming Center. That is a camping issue with our community and it's not just specific to Wheat Drive. It's throughout the community and that's a deal that the city has been working on with the ordinance and an issue across the country."

Which is why Heather says we need facilities such as Homeward Point. Because of all the added features, Heather says the main goal with the new facility is to make sure homelessness is a one-time occurrence for people.

“We have to focus resources, time, and energy on both providing quality shelter programming and providing housing. So there's an off-ramp for people from shelter back into housing,” Heather says.

The facility is expected to open in June 2025.