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Homeless Initiatives
Overview
In 2006, Mayor Ron Tussing was asked to lead an initiative to develop a plan to address the needs of the homeless in Billings. The Mayor formed a 20 member coalition, the Mayor's Committee on Homelessness, to develop and implement a plan. In 2010, Mayor Tom Hanel fully embraced the initiative and has been a constant supporter of the many programs and activities sponsored by the Committee.

In October 2009, the City Council adopted Welcome Home Billings; a ten-year plan to impact homelessness. The completed plan and supporting documents can be found online.To date, over 300 cities across the nation have committed to implementing plans to impact homelessness. Over 50 local organizations and 600 individuals have been collectively working on implementing the plan to impact homelessness.

Initiatives
  • Billings Community Connect - One day each year, dozens of organizations gather to provide immediate access to services such as housing, food, clothing, employment, medical care and legal aid.
  • Homeless Play - The City sponsored Project Homelessness, in partnership with Venture Theatre, to create a play depicting true stories of children experiencing homelessness in the Billings area.
  • Youth Count! The overall intent of this project was to prepare and facilitate a count to enumerate and assess youth experiencing homelessness in the Billings area.
  • Community Gardens and Food Security - Efforts to increase access to nutritious food and support organizations providing for those in need.
  • Illuminate Poverty -This initiative is designed to raise social and public awareness about poverty and homelessness in our community.
  • Social Enterprise - Furthering financial sustainable innovations targeting homelessness through business enterprise and economic opportunity.
  • Spare Change for Real Change - Creating an alternative to giving to panhandlers, this project provides opportunities to support change through the Purple 5k, Downtown Crit and spare change collection.
  • Billings Metro VISTA Project - Volunteers in Service to America members work to create or expand community based programs, services and systems to impact poverty and homelessness.

Downtown Resource Map & Notepad
The Resource Map is a portable, user friendly guide that quickly connects individuals and families experiencing homelessness with the community resources they need. The map illustrates access to shelter, food, clothing, health care, legal aid, restroom, shower and laundry facilities.

The Resource Notepad is a tool designed for case managers, organizations and individuals to quickly make referrals to community resources under ten major categories:  Food Assistance & Household Needs, Housing, Transportation, Healthcare, Shelter, Employment Services, Education Opportunities, Financial Assistance, Children’s Services, and Addiction Treatment Options.

These documents were developed as part of an overall effort to impact homelessness and was sponsored by the Mayor's Committee on Homelessness, the City of Billings and RiverStone Health. Kelly Fessler, an AmeriCorps VISTA member through the Billings Metro VISTA Project, facilitated development and design.