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Neighbors respond to plans to open a temporary overflow warming center in residential neighborhood

Neighbors are concerned with the site's proximity to 2 schools
Posted at 4:37 PM, Oct 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-24 18:37:58-04

Some neighbors in the Figgins neighborhood located in South Bozeman, say the possibility of the HRDC opening up a temporary warming location in the neighborhood is a bad idea.

“We care deeply about those in need. This is just about the location. It’s just simply about the location,” said Emily Mason, a resident of the Figgins neighborhood.

The HRDC says they’re at capacity at their seasonal emergency shelter located on Industrial Drive, and tentatively plan on opening an overflow location that can house up to 36 people.

Their permanent location is in the early stages of development, and will be located off Griffin Drive in Bozeman.

“We do need an emergency shelter in our entire housing continuum. Being able to shelter the women and seeking shelter in this community, they are our neighbors,” said Shari Eslinger, housing department director at the HRDC.

“They’re not people that are just coming in. They’re our neighbors that are in this housing crisis.”

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The overflow location is for women, children and families. People must check in before staying at the shelter in a different location. They are then transported to the location by shuttle.

The warming center overflow location would operate between 7 pm and 7 am.

“One big concern is the proximity to the elementary school and middle school. And just the concern of a what-if scenario. That may be unlikely but it does pose some concerns to neighbors in this area,” said Mason.

Neighbors are concerned about people with a history of violence and drug use traveling through the neighborhood. Especially a neighborhood with lots of families and children.

The HRDC says concerns are legitimate, but unlikely.

Neighbors also mentioned the scheduled smoke breaks at the warming center and secondhand smoke as a concern.

Neighbors within close proximity of the site and the HRDC met earlier this month, but some reported they felt there wasn’t a strong line of communication between the organization and the neighborhood at large.

The HRDC says it’s not mandatory that they hold a public meeting about their plans, but they want to hear what neighbors have to say.

The HRDC has already purchased the home that would serve as the warming center’s temporary overflow location, but they’re still actively looking for other locations that would make a better fit.

“We know it’s not an ideal location. We are still looking, and we don’t want it there,” said Eslinger.

“We want it we want to be able to have shelter that can accommodate everyone that’s centered around service that can help make homeless very brief.”

The city would still need to approve the HRDC plans if they decided to move forward with the purchased location.

There have been some in the Figgins neighborhood and many in the community that have voiced their strong support for the possible warming center location.

Others who oppose the possible site say it’s not a matter of a lack of compassion, it’s all about location.