GREAT FALLS — The Great Falls Rescue Mission has been serving individuals and families in a time of need for 60 years. As a part of their mission, they assist residents in the hopes of establishing long-term goals and moving them towards a positive direction in their lives.
The non-profit reported that 2022 was one their most active years.
"It was a very busy year," said Great Falls Rescue Mission Director, Jim McCormick. "It wasn't because we were overpopulated or anything like that. With the women's shelter being shut down, we had to limit how many ladies we can take care of, and in turn, that limited how many families we could take care of because we had to keep the numbers within reason."
Great Falls Rescue Mission reported these numbers for 2022:
- Food served: 2,367 individuals
- Provided shelter (unique individuals served): 667 (men: 280, women: 235, children: 152)
- Bed nights: 67,117 individuals
- Meals served: 82,329 individuals
- Food boxes: 120 individuals
- Moved into/kept in permanent housing: 80 (men: 15, women: 32, children: 33, families: 14)
- Participated in drug addiction program: 44 individuals
- Graduated from addiction program: 8 individuals
- Participated in life skill classes: 44 individuals
- Participated in spiritual care classes: 44 individuals
- Children & youth served: 152 individuals
- Back to school rally meals served: 1,700 individuals
- Backpacks given: 1,300 individuals
- Thanksgiving meals served: 1,712 individuals
- Professions of faith: 4 individuals
- Volunteer hours 6,385
- Volunteers: 538
The Rescue Mission said November is when they saw a dramatic increase in people entering the shelter.
Great Falls Rescue Mission Development Director, Carrie Matter stated, "Winter came early in November, and it lasted for the whole month. We saw a fifty percent increase in those coming off the streets, getting out of the harsh weather and being able to sleep the night off and go along their way."
McCormick explained what the Rescue Mission offers as part of their cold weather services.
He noted. "We have cold weather services for times like this when it gets below 32 degrees or stays below 15 degrees during the day. We have cold weather services where we let them stay overnight ... We put them on a cot or a mat on a floor in the dayroom or wherever it may be, with blankets or sleeping bags. In the morning, we feed them a breakfast and they are good to go. Then, we expanded those this past year. When its 15 degrees or colder throughout the day, we allow folks to stay in our shelter, so they can stay out of the weather or stay subjected to the cold weather for a long period of time."
The Rescue Mission said there were challenges when seeing this influx, describing it as a "multi-layered challenge."
Matter stated, "homelessness has always been about substance abuse. I would say the mental health crisis has surpassed that. I think homelessness has now become an issue of undiagnosed or untreated mental health. Some of our challenges, is we would have people released to us, where a homeless shelter would not be an appropriate place for them to stay. We've seen referrals come from the state hospital, and we don't know what their triggers are. They are not on their medication, however they were attempting to get them on what is called the 'PACT (Program of Assertive Community Treatment) program through the Center for Mental Health, but there is sometimes a delay in that. We've had to not have individuals stay with us because in the context of 'community,' it became unsafe for the individual and the people staying at our shelter."
Matter said given some of the challenges, that has led them to potentially expand upon their services with the goal of getting people out of homelessness and become productive members of society.
The Rescue Mission currently offers a 16-month recovery program they are working to revamp, as well as mental health services they currently provide on-sight. Matter said there is a spectrum of needs people have, and there are cases in which the Rescue Mission is unable to address.
"We do need the professionals to come in, and we've found that to be pretty successful so far," she said. "Our hope is when they make personal connections, there is an easier transition for them to be able to stay here at the shelter, but also receive they help they need from the services that our community provides."
The Rescue Mission says they are increasing conversations with agencies such as the Great Falls Police Department and Alluvion Health with a mobile response team. They noted the end goal is to better "respond" to certain situations, in order for the help to be more immediate, rather than it being "reactionary."
"What we do, does work," McCormick said. "Sometimes, it takes longer with some than others, and there are some that don’t make it, but the good news is, sometimes, they give us another try, and then they go on and become very productive members of our community.”
For more information, call the Rescue Mission at 406-761-2653, email email@example.com, or visit the website.