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Man banned from HRDC Warming Center shares management concerns after December death at the facility

The Gallatin County Sheriff/Coroner says a 33-year-old man was found dead in the bathroom of the Warming Center on Christmas Day.
Posted at 8:00 PM, Jan 15, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-16 11:32:12-05

BOZEMAN — MTN has learned that a Bozeman Warming Center guest died on Christmas Day. This comes as the HRDC shelters in Bozeman and Livingston are seeing record numbers, thanks to the cold snap.

This past weekend, 118 people sought shelter in Bozeman, with 18 in Livingston.

These warming centers are a beacon of hope for many folks needing shelter and resources to get back on their feet; however, one man tells us his hope has almost run out after being banned from staying at the Bozeman Warming Center.

“I’m clean and sober and I’m trying to walk that path,” said Evans. “It’s difficult coming into a warming center where people are constantly intoxicated, they have weapons, they’re screaming at each other, there’s threats of violence.”

Jonathon Evans has been a guest at the Warming Center since October. He says it’s not exactly a peaceful place, especially for someone like him who struggles with PTSD.

“Again, I’ve seen the drugs I’ve seen the overdoses, the people they say are banned like I am currently,” said Evans.

Evans was recently banned from the Warming Center after someone tried to climb into his bed reserved only for him due to his mental struggles.

“There’s a couple staff members who leave the door unlocked for the convenience of people coming in and out to smoke,” said Evans. “Now at 2 a.m., I’ve got someone in an insane state of mind trying to crawl into my bed.”

Evens said this interaction sent him into a panic attack, so he left. Now, he’s not allowed to come back. But he claims other guests just come and go as they please.

“The doors are supposed to be locked," said Evans. “Once you’re in, you aren’t supposed to leave.”

In a phone interview, HRDC President Heather Grenier said they don’t ever leave the doors unlocked.

“The door operates on a buzzer system,” said Grenier. “The cold has been triggering the buzzer to not work but they’re supervised 24/7.”

Evans says he knows staff are doing the best they can, but it seems they’re in over their heads.

"In fact, I would like to protect the staff. I would like to see them do better,’ said Evans. “There’s pushing, shoving, and hitting.”

Which is hard to sit back and watch according to Evans. But one of the more disturbing events he recalls?

“I believe there was a fentanyl death,” said Evans.

The Gallatin County Sheriff/Coroner says a 33-year-old man was found dead in the bathroom of the warming center on Christmas Day. The cause of death has not been confirmed but it appears to be drug related.

“We can’t control anyone’s behavior. But with that being said, anytime an incident happens we’re constantly trying to review our policies, procedures, and camera footage,” said Grenier. “One of the ways we’re trying to implement is actually blocking off the restrooms after lights out.”

Grenier was unable to comment on the situation that led to Evans being banned from HRDC services, but shared, “If guests cannot comply with our behavior policy, we have no choice but to suspend their services.”

“I feel like I was sold hope, but I missed the boat,” said Evans.

“This is it. This is the only safety net left in our community,” said Grenier. “And it’s not funded well, but it’s all we have.”