GREAT FALLS — The Great Falls Rescue Mission, Cameron Family Center, and Women’s Shelter are preparing for the coldest months of the year.
Normally the facilities operate at a capacity of 80 for the women’s shelter, 85 for the men’s shelter and 135 for the family center, but when it gets brutally cold overnight, the shelters extend open arms.
“When it gets to 32 degrees or colder, we allow anybody to come in to the shelters. So there's really no reason for anybody to spend the night under a bridge or in a tent or anything like that,” says Executive Director of the Great Falls Rescue Mission, Jim McCormick.
Shelter occupants may stay day and night when temperatures dip below 15 degrees. Even some prior standardized rules are reassessed.
“We relax the rules of whether they're inebriated or high or anything like that because we want them off the street. This is weather that could hurt somebody or kill them. And we don't want that,” says McCormick
Emergency mats and blankets are provided by the shelter for the worst nights. The previous capacity of roughly 300 is stretched to just under 400.
The shelter rarely has to buy their own materials, thanks to the generosity of the surrounding community and Central Montana, who donate so much from blankets, to food, to finances.
“Great Falls is a loving, wonderful community. I couldn't imagine doing this job someplace else,” says McCormick.