Not a meal was missed and not a single person was turned away by the Montana Rescue Mission while for the past two months the organization has dealt with flood damage.
Overnight beginning July 29, more than two million gallons of water spewed in the basement of the charity’s Minnesota Avenue facilities. The seven separate buildings on the block all had varying levels of damage, but the Mission's first priority was getting its men's shelter back to where it was before the flooding, said MRM Public Relations Director Denise Smith said.
On top of finishing the repairs, the mission has issued its "Code Blue" protocol, special rules that allow intoxicated people inside the shelter when the temperature outside dips below freezing, Smith said. If the person is too intoxicated for the mission, at 0.2 blood alcohol content or above, they are sent to the Community Crisis Center, Smith said.
"Between us and the crisis clinic, there is no reason anybody needs to be out on the street when the temperatures are below freezing," Smith said.
The Mission's health center, which is run by RiverStone Health, also is preparing to reopen on Nov. 1. The program provides free checkups to people living on the streets and free tuberculosis vaccinations for those who want to stay in the shelter, Smith said. While the Mission's health care center was shut down, St. Vincent de Paul and the Hub both extended their health service hours to fill the gap.
The mission had 105 men stay in the shelter in September, with 47 women and 25 children staying in the family shelter.
Pilgrim Congregational Church, the Radisson Hotel and Rocky Mountain Community Church gave the Mission access to kitchens where meals could be prepared.
Local restaurants also donated ready-made meals, Smith said.
Offices, classrooms and even the chapel of MRM have been repurposed into donation rooms, food staging areas and a dining room, in order to keep the shelter running as repairs were being done in waterlogged areas.
The flood damage was limited to the basement levels, putting the health center, kitchen and dining room out of commission. The kitchen and dining room were already being remodeled and the mission was just about ready to put flooring in when the pipe broke, MRM Executive Director Perry Roberts said.
The Mission was able to reduce costs by doing a lot of the labor themselves, and with some help from local businesses. On the United Way Day of Caring in September, workers from CTA Architects in Billings painted the dining room walls.
The hope now is that the dining room and kitchen will be fully repaired in time for the holiday meals. The Mission already is requesting donations of turkeys, large cans of green beans and heavy-duty paper plates to help with Thanksgiving.
The mission could also use donations of underwear, socks and coffee, Smith said.
The shelter has asked its nearby tenant, SCRAP Billings, 21 S. 29th St., to look for a new location so the mission can use that building to open a voucher clothing store, Smith said.
The buildings that were being used for this in the past had more severe damage after the flooding than the men's shelter, Perry said. Mold has now become a problem and the shelter has not been able to restore power to the Minnesota Avenue buildings.
MRM program director the Rev. Glenn Fournier said challenges remain for the mission, but the agency continues to be blessed by incredible community partners who support the charity's vision.
People can go to the Montana Rescue Mission website to find out ways to make financial and material donations to the shelter.