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City Desk

Center of Hope serves hope, help and compassion


Janice Downey, Development coordinator at Butte Rescue Mission Center of Hope
Photo by Jim Larson

By Diane Larson 

In the first 22 days of October the Butte Rescue Mission Center of Hope served 3,374 meals, well over 150 a day. For the entire month of September, it served 3,364 meals. So, the need grows.


The mission has served over 14,000 meals since it opened its doors in June of 2019 and has housed more than 300 different people. The need is great.


Janice Downey, development coordinator of the shelter said that in the first two months the shelter housed 108 men, women, and children.


The previous shelter had been shut down in the early months of 2017, when the building it was in was “deemed dangerous,” local media reported.


The doors opened at a new location on June 12, 2019 and the mission has been going strong since then.


“What is great about our shelter, besides the fact that it is open after 26 months, is that it houses families,” said Downey. Being able to house a family together without splitting them into different locations or buildings is not only a great improvement, but unique to Butte’s own mission. “It houses people who for one reason or another have had their family life collapsed, and this is a way that the children, the husband, and the wife can all heal together,” explained Downey.


Downey said that throughout the country, shelters are set-up with women and children in one shelter and men in another. The men’s shelter could be down the street, or somewhere else, but set apart.


Being able to keep the family bonded together in a living quarters creates an environment for healing and makes the process of moving forward easier.



At Butte’s Center of Hope there is a men’s restorative shelter that holds 16 men. The family restorative shelter holds 20 men, women and children. The men in the family restorative shelter are all part of a family. All of the people in each shelter “have to be drug and alcohol free when they come here,” said Downey.  If they are not, “but are totally committed to getting clean and sober they can appeal to Rocky,” explained Downey. Rocky Lyons is the executive director of the shelter; she oversees management of Missions’ operations, construction of the new shelters, personnel, budget etc. A woman with a lot on her plate, all that, plus discerning whether a person, who is an alcoholic or on drugs is committed enough to begin the process at the shelter. Not a small responsibility.


In less than two weeks the mission team will be opening a new shelter that Downey called a ‘low barrier’ shelter. This is an emergency shelter for those who “would not be able to pass the drug and alcohol screen, or they may have a violent past or something like that,” explained Downey. “These folks need somewhere to stay, and so we are providing that shelter,” said Downey. This building will hold 10 men and six women with a solid wall barrier between the different quarters. They will also have a separate dining room that has 16 tables and a kitchen. The meals will be cooked in the main kitchen and transported to the low barrier shelter. The people in the low barrier shelter stay separate from the families for safety reasons. “We will not allow any drug or alcohol use anywhere on campus,” said Downey.


“There are the two sides of this, one is restorative and the other is emergency, and both of them have different needs, and one of the things that we need is safety here on campus,” said Downey. There is 24-hour camera surveillance with screens in Rocky’s office that show 18 different views from throughout the entire campus.


Having the surveillance, a clean facility, and being well organized are all things that had to be in place before the zoning could occur, and “we got them all in place,” Downey said.


In the restorative shelter a person or family can stay for 90 days. During that time, “they are expected to work 35 hours a week. Ten of them are in the shelter, to clean and keep it looking nice, they have chore lists,” said Downey. They are also expected to find a job off campus. Downey explained that they work closely with Express Employment Professionals and Career Futures, Inc. for finding jobs. She also explained that they work with over 20 different organizations or agencies, everything from Action Inc., Butte Law enforcement, Butte 4-C’s and many more. All of these agencies help the people who come to the shelter. “We really believe in partnering with our agencies for the care provided. We serve seven counties, more than 16,000 square miles, not acres, miles,” said Downey.


These areas are “Jefferson County, Madison County, Silver Bow, Deer Lodge, Beaver Head, Powell and Granite, and from Missoula, from Helena, from Bozeman all of that area down to the Idaho border,” said Downey. People come on the bus from all these places looking for some shelter.


“It is a faith based Christian organization, but you do not have to pass a religious litmus test, we accept any body,” said Downey. What it means though is that “We believe that Jesus can be your friend to walk you through this big trouble time. People are in trauma when they arrive here or else, they are denying trauma,” said Downey. It is up to those who enter the shelter’s doors to accept the help and move forward.


A peer navigator helps them reach the resources they need. For example, if they are eligible for TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), or SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) the peer navigator works with the resident to get those subsidies set up. They might need to make appointments, fill out paperwork and all that goes with getting the help they need. This help is varied; someone might need to get their CDL license back, another might be bogged down in fines or other expenses and the peer navigator helps them to find the resources they need to resolve these issues.


One of the fun things they do at the shelter is a weekly knitting and crochet group, “It’s just wonderful,” said Downey. The residents make things for each other or other residents. “We have helpers from the community, I’m one of them,” explained Downey. All of them are really getting into the knitting or crocheting, it’s an activity that some have known, and some are just getting into now. “We provide the needles, crochet hooks and the yarn. They are grateful and they are working away at it and they are enthusiastic about it,” said Downey. Another benefit to this is that the hours done here count towards their 35 hours a week of work. “So not only are you learning this thing that is peaceful, relaxing, creative enterprise, but you’re also earning 2 hours a week,” said Downey.


Other ways they earn their hours are by going to an AA meeting, narcotics anonymous meeting, Bible study, church service or any of the things they do to better their life. All these things are tracked. It only averages to approximately 5 hours a day, “We think it’s appropriate, we feel that they need to invest in themselves and earn their house,” said Downey. “Yes, they stay here for free, but they have to put something into it too. And the big thing is where most of the hours, 25 out of 35 hours, is in improving their life and showing the proof of that. It is a system we believe that works,” said Downey.


When asked what the needs of the shelter moving into the holidays are, Downey talked about the Town Pump and their offer of a 2-for-1 match to support the missions annual fund.


The 2-for-1 match is where a person in the community might donate a certain amount to this charitable fund for whatever reason. It might be a memorial, maybe a gift, whatever the reason, the Town Pump will the double that amount and put it in the fund as well. So, if you would like to give a $25 donation in someone’s name, the Town Pump will give a $50 donation. In the end, basically, your $25 grew into $75. It’s a wonderful idea for Christmas gifts. This offer goes through the two months of November and December, ends on December 31. Gifts can also be given just for the sake of giving, there doesn’t have to have a memorial attached. Anything is appreciated.


To do this you can simply call the shelter at (406)782-0925 or send a check to Butte Rescue Mission Center of Hope at 610 East Platinum Street, Butte MT 59701.


Another one of the big needs for the shelter is food. There is not a food budget, so they largely rely on donations. Groceries are very welcome. The shelter feeds not only the residents, but it feeds people in our own community that may not have money to buy a meal. Giving the gift of nourishment for your community is a wonderful way to give. You can go to the grocery store and buy a bag of groceries, then donate that to the shelter.


Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.”


That sentiment is reflected at the Butte mission. “That’s how we work, we have this circle. We have people who donate, who find a need, who need, and we have everything working together with other agencies throughout town and other counties and we’re all in this mission together and it’s a really good thing,” said Downey.

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