Happy Campers

Happy Campers

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Robin Mayer

Putting an end to compulsory camping. 

Camping season is here, and every weekend, Bozemanites swarm the campgrounds and riverbanks, reveling in the quietude and solitude of nature. To make the experience even more pleasant, we pack along our waterproof tents, toasty-warm sleeping bags, coolers full of food and drink, stoves for cooking tasty meals, and varied and sundry other comfort items.

Now, imagine if camping were compulsory, even during the coldest months of the year, but without access to any of these creature comforts. The experience would be a mite less fun, no?

Well that's how Bozeman's homeless citizens live: outside, on the ground, in the cold and wet, every day.

But that's all about to change. The Human Resources Development Council (HRDC), Bozeman’s safety net, has partnered with St. James Episcopal Church and the MSU School of Architecture to provide a safe and sustainable community for Bozeman’s compulsory campers, empowering them to focus on reintegration into community living.

The Housing First Village, HRDC's newest initiative, aims to provide transformative housing to Bozeman’s chronically homeless. The number of homeless, and the length of time of their homelessness, has been increasing in our community; however, the options available to them, and the ability to return to proper housing, are more limited.

Targeted toward the homeless population that is most at risk, Housing First Village is designed to support successful reintegration into community living and permanent housing. These single-user, 160-square-feet “tiny homes" will provide a cost-effective way to address the growing issue of homelessness in our community, while maintaining the autonomy and dignity of the residents. Utilizing best practices from around the nation, this model is based on the “Housing First” philosophy, which limits the barriers to entry and provides supportive services to residents for mental health, addiction, etc. once they have secured housing.

In the end, the plan is to get our homeless neighbors into safe, comfortable housing of their own, so that one day they too will be able to go camping like the rest of us: voluntarily, and with a few comfort items to make the experience a pleasant one.

To learn more, visit housingfirstbozeman.org.

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