HELENA — Good Samaritan Ministries submitted an application to the City of Helena for a Conditional Use Permit for an emergency shelter.
The plan was announced Thursday at the final meeting of the year for the Emergency Housing Working Group.
Good Samaritan Ministries plans to convert a space adjacent to Our Place on Last Chance Gulch into an emergency shelter for women.
According to the permit application, the shelter would be for use by unsheltered women between October 1 and May 1 and operate between 4:00 p.m. and 9:00 a.m.
The shelter, which would be called Ruth's Place, is planned to be a low-barrier shelter. The application describes a low-barrier shelter as one that does not require women to be sober, compliant with mental health or addiction treatment plans, or agree to participate in programs to receive services and housing support.
The 4,700 square feet facility would have the capacity to sleep 26 women.
At the meeting, leaders estimated there were between 45 and 50 women in the community who could be helped by this type of shelter. At the meeting, leaders said creating a shelter dedicated to supporting unsheltered women in the community could open up more spaces at places like God's Love to help unsheltered men.
Jeff Buscher with the United Way is a member of the working group. He said this is the farthest a plan for an emergency shelter has gotten in Helena.
"We know we have housing issues," says Buscher, "We know we have shortages, and together we can overcome this problem. One of the lessons from community development is that usually, a community has the resources within itself to solve its own challenges."
According to Good Samaritan Executive Director Theresa Ortega, a draft budget for the project already exceeds $100,000. That includes the cost of renovating bathrooms, updating the fire suppression system, security features like cameras and automatic locking doors and additional staff to operate the facility. Good Samaritan estimates it will need at least two people each shift to safely operate the shelter.
The plan has yet to go before city leaders for approval. Organizers have already reached out to some neighboring residents and businesses and plan to send flyers detailing the project to properties near the proposed shelter.
There is an open house on December 5 at Our Place for people who want to learn more.
The Conditional Use Permit will be before the City of Helena Zoning Commission on December 6, and the City Commissioners on December 18.
If the project is approved and renovations are completed, it is possible the shelter could open sometime in February.