Group weighs need for local homeless shelter


A group of concerned citizens has been meeting to determine if there is a need for a local homeless shelter and to coordinate efforts of already existing services.

The next meeting is 3 p.m. Monday at the second-floor conference room of the Veterans Affairs building. Anyone interested is invited to attend.

Carla Bichler of the Custer County Community Health Center belongs to the group, (informally called the homeless task force) and said members have been meeting for more than a year.

The group is made up of community and business people who wanted to do something proactively to address the problem. 

She said they are trying to decide if a shelter is needed, and if so, what kind. There are many kinds of shelters, such as for men, women or families. Bozeman has a shelter for just the winter months.

“There’s just a lot of different directions to go,” she said.

One survey was done in October, to try to determine how many local homeless people there are (including people with just temporary housing). 

Bichler said there were 20 discovered, but  “we think there’s a lot more out there.”

She explained that there are as many reasons people are homeless as there are homeless people.

The task force is trying to find funding sources and a building that would fill the need.

So far, those who regularly attend the meetings bring expertise to the table.

Bichler had served on a homeless shelter board in Grand Forks, N.D.

- Shad Barrows and Diane Willson are Veterans Affairs social workers who work with a homeless program for veterans.

- Antonia Klein works with the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services in the addictive and mental disorders division.

- Claudette Manson works with adult protective services.

- Jan Pratt works with Custer County Council On Aging.

- Becky Lane works with the Developmental Education Assistance Program.

Custer County District High School counselors come when they can.

- Keith Olson is the Veterans Services Officer.

- Diana Seleg is from CNADA (Custer Network Against Domestic Abuse).

Others have attended, and the group welcomes anyone who is interested to come, whether associated with an agency or not.

At Monday’s meeting they will continue to look at possible funding sources and are talking with the Volunteers of America group in Billings, which runs the shelter there.

Anyone who has questions or wants more information can contact Bichler at 234-8793.