GREAT FALLS — The Great Falls Rescue Mission is nearing their busiest time of the year, but they still have a way to go. Despite the extreme cold this Fall, staff still expect January and February to be their busiest months, just like last year.
"If you were here last February, you know how cold it was then,” said executive director Jim McCormick. “We could get closer to 260, 280 people by then, and we’re pretty much full by that time. The Cameron Family Center, which is where we’re at right here, can house 135 people if every bed is full but they’re families so there’s beds in the rooms that aren’t being used. We’re calling it full right now at about 118 to 120 people, and roughly 80 children living in this building at this point.”
According to McCormick, the number of people coming in usually increases steadily throughout the winter, but the biggest spikes almost always come around the start of the new year.
In the extreme cold, many people will come in just for short-term care as opposed to long-term. McCormick says when that’s the case, try not to turn anyone away. He says nobody should be trying to find a warm place to sleep outside in such brutal cold.
“If it’s short term care because of weather situations, we’ll keep going,” he said. “I mean we have a chapel in this building, we have a chapel in the men’s shelter that, if we put the chairs up, we can put another 40 to 60 people in if we want to. They might be sleeping on blankets instead of an air mattress or a cot of some sort, but we’ll find room for them. We don’t want people out in this kind of weather, this is life threatening so we try our best not to make them have to worry about that.”
Because the Mission is a non-profit, Christian-based organization, they can have a set of rules that anyone who comes in seeking shelter must follow. While some people can be hesitant to follow those rules during the Spring and Summer, the cold weather in the Winter tends to change their minds.
“We take no government funding so we have rules that we can have people live by and sometimes they don’t want to follow those rules until it gets to be like this type of weather,” McCormick explained. “Then all of a sudden, they are ready to listen and ready to come, and I don’t blame them. It is cold out there and nobody wants to be trying to find a place under a bridge that’s warm, so we open the doors to anybody and everybody, whether they’re inebriated or on drugs or anything like that.”
The Mission is always grateful for donations of food and money to keep their operation going, especially in the harsh winter months. You can donate online by visiting their website, or you can visit their thrift store on 9th Street South. According to their website, purchases or donations made at the thrift store are tax deductible.