Revamped shelter in Browning gives short term housing for folks and their pets

The Blackfeet Country hasn’t had a shelter obtainable as short term housing for virtually a 10 years. That changed late previous 12 months.

The Drugs Bear Lodge has been serving very hot foods twice a day just off Browning’s principal street given that 2012. The lodge shut down final summertime for construction, and re-opened as the Blackfeet Medicine Bear Shelter previous November with an up-to-date set up: a few trailers earning a ‘U’ with two of them serving as individual wings for girls and gentlemen. These trailers are not campers they’re designed for housing at oil fields, and are normally identified as “man camps.” They have much less home windows, a lot more sharp corners, and fluorescent lights. The new lodge is a function in development, and will provide as a non permanent housing shelter for the Blackfeet Country.

“This is what the rooms look like – we have a folding bed for like, if we get overcrowded,” claimed Mercedes Aged Individual, director of the shelter.

Throughout a tour of the shelter’s day area, Aged Particular person mentioned they are “trying to get a Television place in in this article for them to, if they never want to be up there, they can be down in this article and check out Tv and stuff.”

Very last fall’s enlargement had been a prolonged time coming. Browning experienced a shelter in an aged barracks building that opened in the 1970s. That shelter was in fact begun by Old Person’s father. It was condemned in 2012, nevertheless, due to the fact of environmental difficulties which bundled asbestos.

Right after her father died, Previous Man or woman was tapped to run the new soup kitchen and, eventually, expand it into housing. Outdated Person’s history experienced been in corrections, and she did not know much about running shelters. To figure out what works greatest, she toured other shelters in Montana.

“I was normally just the detention officer,” she explained. “I did not, you know, know guidelines about homelessness and it is been a finding out encounter for me.”

The shelter been given some presents along the way. A browsing preacher donated dollars to increase the initial rest room to consist of a shower. The Blackfeet Housing Council established up an staff fund so Blackfeet Country employees could donate areas of their paychecks. Aged Individual suggests a person councilman donated $100 every single pay back period. Total, the shelter created about $10,000 via items. Aged Man or woman also accepted an invitation to sign up for other companies less than the umbrella of Blackfeet Manpower, an group that presents job teaching to people today on the reservation.

Previous Human being mentioned that signing up for Blackfeet Manpower was “probably the greatest thing” she did. “They enable us with workers, instruction,” she mentioned.

One partnership, the group Animals for Existence, was key to the shelter’s current growth. They have an office environment in the back again corner of the building. Pets for Everyday living personnel assist distribute donations of cat and pet food to pet house owners all around city, and they work with vets to provide clinics.

“They arrived up and did a spay and neuter clinic,” Old Particular person reported. ‘They noticed what we ended up executing and a single of the physicians arrived in and asked me what she could do to enable us,” Previous Particular person stated. 

One of the doctors informed Previous Particular person about a grant that arrived from the American Society for the Avoidance of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). As a result of the grant, Drugs Bear Lodge acquired $80,000 to construct housing for persons who experienced pets. This spring, the shelter plans to install out of doors kennels for when the pet dogs want some fresh new air.

Pet or no dog, there are regulations about who can stay at the shelter. Previous Man or woman begun directing the shelter just after just about 30 a long time doing work in a jail, and she operates a tight ship.

“It’s for the grownup males and grownup females only,” she reported. “That’s what type of shelter it is. But, a large amount of men and women believed it was going to be for the families and all that and I just could not do that.”

Old Particular person chose an adults-only tactic since she understands some people battling with housing are also struggling with addiction. The shelter is not a medical facility, but the team retains its people accountable in a way that can assistance somebody in recovery. Purchasers must arrive and go only by the front doorway. They strip their beds daily for laundry. If they shell out a evening elsewhere, they have to spend 5 times in Covid-19 isolation before they can stroll all around in the shelter.

“I have 3 right here that are keeping in the shelter that have changed their existence just becoming below,” Old Individual reported. “They sobered up, they give up employing, and so that is a good results in itself.”

The shelter’s help method has a household experience to it. The information is on in the kitchen area while the cooks prepare evening meal. There’s a bulletin board adorned for the past getaway. Lynette Lunak, who functions the front desk, is frequently checking in on shoppers to see where by they are at with their paperwork.

“I’m just in the method of acquiring all my programs with each other, all my, you know, Part 8, Social Protection card, GA, oh my gosh, every little thing,” Lunak said.

Lunak, herself, is a achievement story. Though the shelter was shut for development, she was living in a dwelling that was condemned due to the fact of her drug use. She achieved out to Aged Human being almost each day asking when it would re-open.

“Checking into right here … a large amount of gratitude,” Lunak stated. “And I was willing to volunteer. I was keen to pay out ahead. But the leading precedence was I was healing and I was sober and off methamphetamine and I experienced an chance. And I have been in this article ever due to the fact.”

When the shelter did open up, Lunak built herself chaotic, and Aged Human being inevitably hired her. Now, she’s acquired her very own apartment around the storage place, and she’s the 1st deal with you see coming by way of the doorway.

Lunak, like all the personnel here, phone calls Previous Person “Bum.”

“My nickname is Bum. I explain to the people today right here that I beg, I borrow and I bum any way I can.”

For people today, and their pets, that’s how Old Human being obtained this position funded.

This tale arrives from a reporting partnership between the College of Montana faculty of Journalism and Montana General public Radio.