BILLINGS — Last August, the Montana Rescue Mission celebrated breaking ground on its new Unified Campus shelter, with plans to open the more extensive multi-step program by December 2023.
Montana Rescue Mission Executive Director Matt Lundgren said the new location, located on the same block as the current rescue mission on Minnesota Avenue, will have an opening date closer to December 2024.
“I think it’s going to be closer to December 2024. Just because of supply chain, inflation, and everything in the world. As you know, everything is kind of turned upside down,” Lundgren said on Tuesday. “About a year behind what I’d hoped for but here we are. Here we are.”
The new space will include an emergency shelter, a long-term program for recovery and 29 affordable apartments. People using the campus will also have access to healthcare, counseling and job training opportunities.
“People can literally go from the emergency shelter to the program shelter to their own apartment and then out into wherever," Lundgren said. “It’s going to be a real huge solution for our region of the country. Here’s why, under one roof, we’ll have all the solutions people need to get the help they need.”
The project was originally $18 million. Now, Lundgren said the cost has risen to $24 million. He said they are still a few million dollars short of their new goal.
The campus will offer more space, which Lundgren said is needed.
“As Billings continues to grow, homelessness continues to grow,” Lundgren said. “Since Covid, we just see a huge need all year round. It hasn’t really dropped.”
Lundgren said there is currently no limit on how many people the Montana Rescue Mission can accept at their shelter, but there is a cap on bed space. There are only 200 beds at the current shelter.
“So when we have more than 200, people will have to sleep on a mattress on the floor. And we’re at that point where we have mattresses on the floor,” he said.
The new shelter will have more beds and offer more privacy.
“We’re going to have about 300 beds versus 200 beds," he said. "This new shelter will provide rooms for individuals. So, for example, four people in a room with its own bathroom. Right now it’s a barracks for 100 for the men and a barracks for 100 for the women with one bathroom.”
Even with the delay in opening, Lundgren said the construction is currently happening.
“Literally the walls are going up, the floors are being poured, the foundations being put in,” he said.