Lisa Donnot, the executive director of Family Promise, said the pandemic brought a spike in local residents looking for emergency housing, many of whom faced evictions after losing their job during the past seven months.
“Now the weather is getting colder, so a lot people who have been sheltering in cars, especially those with children, are looking for a warm place to stay,” she said.
Along with disrupting the lives of the non-profit’s clients, the outbreak also derailed Family Promise’s “Interfaith Hospitality Network.” The program that places families in houses of worship throughout the city closed due to concerns of spreading the virus. The switch to using apartments, hotels and trailers, Donnot said, has produced a “huge waiting list.”
“I personally am really excited to see some changes coming in the future, and I haven’t felt that way in a while,” she said.
Billings Mayor Bill Cole, also present at the day center Tuesday, said the city government depends on non-profit organizations to care for the homeless. That dependence will be tested as temperatures continue to drop, and more people living in a county with the state’s highest number of COVID-19 cases look to Family Promise and the MRM for help.
“With COVID-19 numbers up, we don’t know what winter’s going to look like so far, the rescue mission has been very fortunate in keeping COVID out of its facility, but with the numbers as high as they are, we are just waiting for the other shoe to drop, I’m afraid,” he said.