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Housing for the homeless is coming to historic Baatz building in Great Falls

Baatz building in downtown Great Falls
Posted at 1:25 PM, Oct 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-24 15:25:16-04

GREAT FALLS — The Baatz building at 400 2nd Avenue South in Great Falls may not look like much now, but in less than two years it will be transformed into apartments for people coming out of homelessness.

New purpose for the Baatz building in Great Falls

"We'll have studio and one and two bedroom, very few two bedroom units, along here,” explained Katie Pung, the real estate director for NeighborWorks Great Falls, as she walked down the hall on the second floor of the building.

The halls inside the historic building are empty now, save for the dust and crumbling plaster falling from the ceiling. The rooms, however, are anything but empty.

"Right now, there's a lot of leftover stuff from, over time, people staying here and just leaving. So there's definitely a lot of work to be done,” Pung explained.

Katie Pung of NeighborWorks Great Falls

NeighborWorks took interest in the building in 2021 when it fell out of contract with someone else.

"One of NeighborWorks' core values is revitalizing the neighborhood, so it really just started discussions around what it could be and how we could make that happen,” said Pung.

NeighborWorks recently received $6.1 million in low-income housing tax credits from the Montana Board of Housing for the work on the building. From the NeighborWorks website:

The building will contain 25 apartments targeted towards individuals who have previously experienced homelessness. Residents of the apartments will pay rent, have a lease and have one on one support from a case manager to help build independent living and tenancy skills as well as be connected to community based physical and mental healthcare services. The first floor of the building will house both case management professionals as well as the community-based service providers.

"This is such a need and there's been so many people working so hard to address it and really help out,” Pung said. "NeighborWorks has not directly provided services to homeless individuals because there are so many organizations that do it so well, so we're really grateful to be able to develop the housing for individuals and really rely on the community and the partnerships that we have so that they can address and provide those services."

Their goal is to have the building ready in the spring of 2023.

Sherrie Arey, Executive Director of NeighborWorks Great Falls, said, “The concept of bringing a project like this to Great Falls truly began in 2016 with the creation of the local Continuum of Care, a group of Great Falls organizations dedicated to the coordination of community-based healthcare services in order to address the needs of the chronically homeless.”

If you’re interested in helping address the issue of homelessness in Great Falls, contact the City’s fair housing specialist Alicia Eatherly at 406-453-4311 to learn about the Continuum of Care program.

Homelessness is not just an issue in Great Falls, though. There are an estimated 1,545 homeless Montanans as of mid-September. That includes 167 family households, 165 veterans, 223 people experiencing chronic homelessness and 79 people ages 18-24.