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Lewistown debates creating a 'warming center' for homeless people

Posted at 2:09 PM, Nov 20, 2023

LEWISTOWN — The Yogo Inn in Lewistown held a meeting to discuss building a potential new warming center in the city.

The packed room was full of passionate citizens both for and against the new center. While some think it will help the homeless population, others worry that it will make things worse.

They are also worries about the location of the shelter, as it will be two blocks away from a day-care center.

“It’s about the kids,” one woman said from the crowd.

Mark Johnson, Mayor of Kalispell, spoke to the crowd about how Kalispell’s own warming center has affected its community, for better and for worse.

“As with anything, there’s a plus and a minus,” Mayor Johnson said, “and we have to weigh, what are the pros and cons? Is there a different way to skin the cat?”

While everyone can agree that the homeless should be helped, the way to go about helping them varies greatly.

“Step back and work with your neighbors,” Mayor Johnson said, “and what is good for the long term.”

Some believe a warming center would draw more homeless people to the area, while others think it will simply help the current population.

“I know that there’s a lot of people who don’t want to admit it,” Mayor Johnson said, “But we had a significant increase in people from outside the area starting to show up in Kalispell.”

 As for alternatives, suggestions from the crowd ranged from building more affordable housing to offering more services on a personal level.

 “If it’s transient use, they really don’t want the help, they just want a place to stop and stay, they’re not going to be that successful in getting up and out,” Mayor Johnson said, “But if they want, and they’re consistent, and they work, and they for[ge] those relationships, they can get out.”

 For the people of Lewistown, it’s not about if they help those in need, but how they go about doing it in the best possible way.