A group of 14 public health and advocacy organizations have banded together in an effort to better address homelessness in Billings, and they’ve asked the city to help fund their efforts.
The Yellowstone County Continuum of Care is a collection of 14 organizations that includes everything from Billings Clinic to District 7 HRDC to Tumbleweed to the Montana Rescue Mission. Its goal is to address homelessness at a systemic level and to do it as community rather than as individual organizations.
To do it, the group needs a coordinator to direct the efforts between the 14 organizations. Erika Willis, executive director of Tumbleweed and the chairwoman of the Yellowstone County Continuum of Care, asked Billings City Council for $70,000 to fund the coordinator position and an additional $20,000 as seed money assist the program.
A big factor in forming the group and finding a professional to coordinate its efforts is for Yellowstone County Continuum of Care to access more grant money from the state.
Montana receives federal money to combat homelessness that the state then disperses to individual communities. Billings, which has the state’s largest homeless population, only sees 7 percent to 9 percent of that money, Willis said.
A well organized group with a coordinator hired specifically to direct its efforts would make Yellowstone County much more competitive in going after those state grants, she said.
Yellowstone County Continuum of Care has already purchased software that allows it to track the members of the homeless population it serves across the 14 organizations, and it allows those 14 organizations to see what other services the other groups have provided. It’s also hired another full-time employee to aid in the effort.
The council will take up the question of whether or not to fund the group as it starts its budgeting process this spring.