As Bozeman’s housing crisis continues, high rental prices and limited options tighten its grip on the city’s most vulnerable.
Bozeman’s seasonal – and sole – homeless shelter opened for the winter last Thursday, and it’s already hit close to the capacity of 40 guests. But many people aren’t aware of a problem that left up to 200 individuals experiencing homelessness any given evening last winter in Bozeman.
“It’s understandable that people wouldn’t know about our homelessness issue, because it’s pretty invisible,” admits Adam Poeschl, Outreach and Operations Manager for Bozeman’s Warming Center.
Poeschl maintains you can’t put their guests into a category.
“For every single person that comes in here,” he says,” we’ve got an individual and different story about why that person’s here.”
Homelessness in Bozeman has become a hidden problem, he says. Many people experiencing it sleep at the Warming Center, in their vehicles, or otherwise out of sight. And many people working hard to keep their heads above water in Bozeman still find themselves without a home. Most Warming Center clients work full-time jobs, but for one reason or another don’t have a permanent home. They may be displaced by housing costs or because of other factors, like a bad rental reference, a criminal conviction, or mental health concerns.
“Homelessness does exist in Bozeman,” Poeschl points out.
The center is run by the nonprofit Human Resource Development Council (HRDC). Guests receive access to basic needs like a warm bed, showers, a community area, and a washer and dryer to do laundry. They're also encouraged to use the organization’s resources to find permanent homes and jobs.
With increasing demand, the Warming Center’s resources are strained.
“Every dollar that we spend sheltering people we have to raise here in Bozeman,” Poeschl says . He promises they’ll keep doing the work that needs to be done every winter season until changes start to happen. Even if that takes years.
“We’re not really anticipating our homelessness crisis to get better anytime soon," Poeschl explains, "because our housing crisis isn’t really getting that much better.” It’s another reason why HRDC hopes to one day build Bozeman’s first year-round homeless shelter.
Until then, the center has had to expand outside of its own facility. Women and families are now housed at Christ the King Church on Durston Road, while men stay at the main Warming Center. According to Poeschl, in years past there were typically one or two families that spent time in the Warming Center over the winter season. But he estimates that around nine families stayed at the center last year, with kids ranging in age from 6 to 17.
The Warming Center is also in constant need of volunteers, who do anything from welcoming and helping the guests to doing laundry.
For more information about the Warming Center or to volunteer or donate: https://thehrdc.org/how-we-help/emergency-assistance/emergency-housing/
The Warming Center is open from 7 AM-7 PM daily. It is located north of Highway 90, at 2104 Industrial Dr. in northeast Bozeman. Anyone in need is welcome.