If you were lucky enough to visit Downtown Billings over the first weekend in August, you likely experienced a vibrant and lively downtown. With Alive After 5, First Friday, ArtWalk, Magic City Blues Festival, Farmer’s Market, Crazy Days retail event, and numerous other concerts and shows on the calendar, Downtown Billings shined as a welcoming and exciting place to visit.
While Downtown Billings continues to grow and prosper, welcoming new businesses and seeing existing business thrive, adding and improving community events, our beautiful city is faced with a challenge to our perception of public safety. The Downtown Billings Alliance is a longstanding organization created to serve our community with the mission to create an authentic, vibrant and prosperous downtown community that celebrates diversity, creativity and welcomes residents and visitors alike.
The DBA stands with the community and acknowledges the challenges we face in serving our homeless populations, those with untreated mental illness, and individuals suffering from addiction. With inadequate affordable housing options, regional health and human services consistently facing budget cuts at the local, state, and federal levels, and our law enforcement professionals navigating an overcrowded detention facility and lack of resources, it is imperative that the entire community joins together to face this challenge.
Public safety incidents are unfortunately not confined to the downtown core; they are affecting our entire county, state and country. Many Billings leadership organizations have heard public safety concerns from their constituents and therefore have prioritized addressing public safety in our community. The Billings Chamber of Commerce, The City of Billings, Yellowstone Board of County Commissioners, and the Downtown Billings Alliance have all met together at various board meetings, public meetings, and outreach opportunities to align this priority.
Community Innovations, one of the Downtown Billings Alliance’s four nonprofit organizations, meets on the third Wednesday of each month, at 3 p.m. at the Billings Public Library to discuss and strategize community solutions. These round table meetings include: multiple City Council members, county commissioners, state legislators, regional and local service providers including but not limited to the Crisis Center, the Hub, St. Vincent de Paul, Montana Rescue Mission, Tumbleweed, Rimrock, Billings Clinic, St. Vincent Healthcare, Alternatives, and various sober housing providers. There is truly a seat at this table for anyone in our community who has an interest in being a part of a solution to these challenges.
In addition to Community Innovation meetings, the DBA also employs two full time police officers that supplement regular patrol of the downtown area. A new resource outreach coordinator will soon be hired. This individual specializes in peer support and addiction counseling and serves to work with individuals interested in seeking treatment. The DBA has also partnered with the Billings Police Department to assist with the Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design evaluation program and will be offering incentives to downtown business and property owners interested in upgrading their exterior lighting to create a safer environment surrounding their business.
As a community, we will be tasked in the very near future with creating solutions and in turn called to invest resources in these opportunities. The DBA will be hosting a public safety community meeting in partnership with the Northern Hotel and Buchanan Capital in the month of September, date and time to be confirmed.
The Downtown Billings Alliance is proud of the community asset we have created and continue to foster in our downtown core but we cannot solve these public safety challenges alone. We invite and welcome our Billings residents, community and civic leaders, business owners and service providers to join us in a regional effort to articulate a vision that will help make Billings and Montana the very best it can be.