Bozeman and Livingston Warming Center numbers double, still open to guests

Beds are separated out due to COVID-19 safety precautions at the HRDC's Warming Center in Bozeman. (2020)

BOZEMAN, Mont. - HRDC's seasonal, overnight Warming Centers are set to open in Bozeman and Livingston on Nov. 1 and remain open through the cold fall and winter months.

Brian Guyer, the housing director for HRDC, expects additional pressure on these shelters this year. But he also wonders whether basic needs will be properly met in the coming months without financial support from the community as Southwest Montana’s affordable housing crisis continues to rapidly escalate.

“Most of us have witnessed the challenges of the significant housing crisis occurring in our community," Guyer said. "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.”

Gallatin Valley has experienced an escalating number of deaths over the past several years due to exposure, as stated in a release.

HRDC fundamentally believes everyone deserves to be warm at night.

“We strive to ensure we are treating our guests with the utmost dignity and support,” Emergency Shelter Services Manager Jenna Huey said. "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.”

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 upcoming winter weather and a shortage of places for people to live, the Warming Centers are a necessity now more than ever.

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