Great Falls

Nov 23, 2012 2:00 AM by Tara Grimes (tara@krtv.com)

Great Falls Rescue Mission adapts to changes

In 1963, Harold Ross started the Great Falls Rescue Mission with just a few hundred dollars in his pocket; in the nearly 50 years since, the Rescue Mission has changed and grown.

Kimberly Stevens, the Women & Family Shelter Supervisor, said, "I love what I do. I have a passion for this. Me coming here helping them is what keeps me going."

And she is in a unique position to offer insight into what the mission's clients need; she recalled her path to the facility back in 2007: "Where I was living at I was basically evicted...I was just scared and nervous and had to take the next step. You know, nobody was going to do it for me."

Stevens is one of thousands of woman the mission has helped, but back in 1963, it would have been a far cry to find a woman here.

Jim Kizer, the executive director, noted, "We really started to take care of homeless and downtrodden veterans. When we first started the mission there was probably a handful of people we were taking care of. Maybe ten, fifteen people we were taking care of."

But Kizer says as time went on, the roles in our society began to change, and the mission saw a need to help woman and families, so about six years ago the mission put in more than 50 beds, hoping it would be enough.

He said, "Of course it's outgrown that and in fact I've mentioned that we've been full for a year and a half. I mean just as soon as we have a family move out we've got another family moving in."

But it's not just woman and children, Kizer says; he has struggled to find rooms to help single fathers and their children, too.

He said, "I've got one staying in the handicap room, the handicap room in the family shelter, I've got another room, it used to be a staff room in the men's shelter, I actually converted that one...it was actually one that had a kitchenette and so I have one family there where the bedroom was and one family where the kitchenette was."

And while the mission used to see primarily clients between 50 and 60 years old, the average age of a homeless person now is 41.

Kizer says the economy is mostly to blame for the changes, but along with change, the mission has found ways to become a recovery center instead of just an overnight shelter: "What are some of those things that we need to do with that mom that lives here? Do we need to give her some education, do we need to teach her how to use the computer?"

He says it's all about getting people back up on their feet, and Stevens says she couldn't have done it without them, and now she is continuing to help keep the one thing the mission has always kept constant: helping people physically, mentally and spirtually.

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