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Montana shelter ready to help homeless during cold weather

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Posted at 1:14 PM, Feb 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-12 15:14:09-05

Sub-zero temperatures have caused challenges for the homeless, and Billings shelters are ready to help.

About 50 people stayed Thursday night at Off The Streets at Second Avenue North and North 33rd Street.

Van loads of about six people came over from the Crisis Center, where they are screened.

"There's a lot of people that have stayed out, as long as they could. You know they're not wanting to be around other people necessarily and so they're the, they're the difficult ones to reach to get them to come into a shelter like this," said Off The Streets site director Craig Barthel.

"But the cold weather has actually forced them, they're getting cold at night now where maybe when it was 20 above they weren't quite so cold, you know now at zero or negative degrees," Barthel continued.

"They're realizing that they can't take that kind of kind of cold, and so they're coming into the shelter so we've seen our numbers climb significantly, just with the increase in the cold weather."

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Craig Barthel

"Right now, we do not have any funding for hotels or motels, but we are referring them to agencies who are able to try to get them into a shelter," said Lt. Felicia Pederson of the Salvation Army. "Our mobile meal route, we go out every day."

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"Still hot," Salvation Army volunteer Geordi Steilen said about the meals. "These bags, they really keep the heat in."

Steilen will drive one of the two vans that will deliver a total of about 300 meals.

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Geordi Steilen

"I would say 95% of them are really, really appreciative and they say thank you and everything," Steilen said.

"Some are living on the streets," Pederson said. "But some are just families who come to depend on those meals every night, because they're working hard to pay their bills. And, you know, just food security is a real thing right now in so many areas."

The Salvation Army and Off the Streets are among the 40 non-profits that make up the Yellowstone County Continuum of Care, which started Off the Streets in the fall.